Gay Families Attend White House Easter Egg Roll

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Monday April 9, 2012

Siena Rose Garcia-Rizzo was all smiles on Monday afternoon when she met Clifford, Alvin and the Chipmunks and her other favorite cartoon characters on the South Lawn of the White House. The real excitement came for the 4-year-old from suburban Chicago when she took part in the Easter egg roll.

"She had a great time," said her father, Daryl Rizzo.

Rizzo, his partner Jaime Garcia and their daughter were among the roughly 50 same-sex couples who attended the 134th annual White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington, D.C. Neither President Barack Obama, nor First Lady Michele Obama referenced LGBT families in the brief remarks they delivered from the South Portico before they greeted children and their parents on the South Lawn. The majority of gay and lesbian couples who traveled to the nation's capital to attend the event, however, simply enjoyed the festivities and the beautiful spring weather.

"We're very excited to show our children the White House and to see it ourselves," Kelly Lawrence of Brookline, Mass., told EDGE. She, her wife Eloise and their two sons Silas and Theo received tickets to attend the Easter egg roll from MassEquality.

"We're excited to participate in what looks like a fun event focused on families of all kinds," said Lawrence. "Easter is a big celebration for us, so we're excited to participate in this kind of celebration of Easter."

New Jersey residents Howie Babushkin and Cal Urso attended the Easter egg roll with their 8-year-old twins Holden and Paige. Their children were particularly excited about their first visit to the White House.

"I'm just really looking forward to seeing it through their eyes and having them come back and share with their friends and their classmates," said Babushkin. "We just feel like it's a really special thing for them and for us."

An estimated 30,000 people attended the Easter egg roll, but at least one couple sought to use the event to send a message to the president.

Jarrod Scarborough and Les Sewell from Las Lunas, N.M., traveled to the nation's capital with their 8-year-old daughter Alegra. The men wore white t-shirts that read "We can't wait!" to spur Obama to issue an executive order to ban federal contractors from discriminating against their employers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Scarborough and Sewell were unable to speak with the president while at the White House, but they expressed confidence that he heard their message.

"Given our economy, this is an absolute wonderful chance to get a little bit of information out about this executive order and hopefully get some education and a little push to get it signed," Scarborough told EDGE before he traveled to the nation's capital.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did not answer a reporter's question later in the day about whether the president would issue the executive order. Other couples who attended the Easter egg roll stressed that their presence alone is a statement.

"I don't think we have a specific sort of political message going in," said Lawrence. "On the other hand, of course, the very existence of our family is a political act. And we feel that just being there is a statement and our acceptance of being there is a statement by the president as well."

Rizzo agreed.

"We wanted to make a statement just by being who we were at this event, but being respectful of what the event is," he said. "It's not, it seemed, about politics as much as about the celebration of the country and the diversity of the country and open arms of a White House that allows all of us to kind of participate in these events. It seems the event is about that and not about other kinds of issues."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.