The annual White House Easter Egg Roll — an event that has served to enhance LGBT visibility — is haphazardly coming together under President Trump, according to media reports, and will likely not include an LGBT presence.
Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the LGBT group American Military Partner Association, said her organization has been invited to partake in the celebration since 2012, but has “had no communication with the Trump administration whatsoever about this year’s event.”
“As you can imagine we have many families that were hoping to attend this event, families from as far as North Carolina and New Jersey,” Broadway-Mack said. “As someone who attended the Easter Egg Roll with my own children, it’s extremely disappointing an invitation was not given to LGBT military families. This is such a wonderful experience for all children. I truly hope our families were not intentionally ignored. The Easter Egg Roll is about kids, not political agendas.”
According to a report in the New York Times, the event — hampered by an understaffed Office of the First Lady because Melania Trump continues to reside in New York City — has become a “quickly thrown-together affair” expected to draw 20,000 people, which is substantially less than the 37,000 attendees last year.
The lax approach to the event, set to take place Monday, is the result of a late start in planning that didn’t get underway until March. As a result, the Times expects “half as many guests, a fraction of the number of volunteers to manage the invasion of the South Lawn, and military bands in place of A-list entertainers like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Idina Menzel and Silentó who have performed for Egg Rolls past.”
According to the Times, the White House has ordered 40,000 of the commemorative eggs — about half of the roughly 85,000 ordered in 2016 — with 18,000 to be given away at the Easter Egg Roll and another 22,000 available for sale. The Times quoted Lara Kline, vice president for marketing and communications at the White House Historical Association, as saying the small number “is due to the limited manufacturing window for this year’s Easter Egg Roll.”
The Times reported members of Congress haven’t received information from the White House about whether they will obtain tickets to distribute to their constituents. One aide to a Republican lawmaker is quoted as saying White House officials “seem to be a bit behind schedule.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, in the same news conference where he triggered an outcry for suggesting Adolf Hitler didn’t use gas attacks to kill Jewish people in the Holocaust, defended plans for the event and joked it will be “an egg-cellent time.”
“We have worked really well,” Spicer said. “I think we’re going to have a very, very enjoyable day on Monday. Tickets have been sent out to all the schools in the area. There will be a large military contingent that will be participating, as well.”
Spicer said the egg roll will consist of five waves over the course two hour-long periods in which children and their families will be able to visit the White House, but didn’t immediately know the number of people who’d attend the event.
“We’ve done extensive community outreach to really bring a lot of the school children and from the area in, and it’s going to be a great day,” Spicer said.
One question about the event is whether Spicer, who took part in the event wearing a bunny suit during the George W. Bush administration as an aide to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, will do so again this year.
Because of the event’s emphasis on family, the Easter Egg Roll in years past has served as a vehicle to promote LGBT families and their children at times when relationship recognition was threatened by efforts to ban same-sex marriage or progressing as litigation seeking marriage equality proceeded through the courts.
Last year, during Obama’s final year in office, among the invitees at the Easter Egg Roll was seven-year-old Jordan G. of Independence, Ky., and his family, who were invited to the event after Jordan wrote a letter to President Obama in which he said he found his “forever family” — two dads named Jeremy and Matt.
“I have two dads named Jeremy and Matt that are keeping me forever,” Jordan wrote. “I know you can’t come to my adoption, but I wanted to tell you thank you for everything that you are doing to keep me safe.”
Jordan added as a post script to his letter to Obama, “I wish I could spend the night sometime in your big house.”
This time around, the White House says any groups interested in attending the Easter Egg Roll — LGBT or otherwise — are able to take part if they only reach out to the administration.
“As you know, the tickets are given to attendees by a random lottery,” said Stephanie Grisham, a White House spokesperson. “And I know that if any groups reached out specifically asking for tickets, they were accommodated.”
In addition to serving as a vehicle for LGBT visibility, the Easter Egg Roll has also been the site — even during the Obama years — for protests in favor of LGBT rights. In 2012, Jarrod Scarbrough, a gay Florida activist, coordinated a demonstration to demand Obama sign an executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors. Obama signed the order in 2014.
It remains to be seen if any LGBT-related protests will take place this year either at the Easter Egg Roll or nearby.
The Washington Post profiled English high school teacher Natalie Rebetsky, in Frederick, Md., who has attended White House Easter Egg Rolls in years past and built a collection of commemorative wooden eggs from the events. This year, faced with disillusionment over Trump, she raided $5,000 of her savings to create her own commemorative eggs.
Produced by the same company that makes the official White House eggs, the alternative eggs read “Protect Our Children’s Future 2017” and feature a sketch of dancing Easter bunnies.
The proceeds from selling the eggs were intended to go toward PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts, two organizations slated for cuts in Trump’s budget proposal. More than $13,000 was raised as of Monday.
Stan Sloan, CEO of the Family Equality Council, had members who also attended the event to demonstrate LGBT visibility — most notably in 2006 as Bush pushed a nationwide ban on same-sex marriage — but has received no communication from the White House this year on including LGBT families in the event.
“We have no indication that this is intended as a deliberate move to exclude members of the LGBTQ community – rather we feel this simply reflects recent media reports of an understaffed White House,” Sloan said.
Pointing to the New York Times report on the lax preparation for the Easter Egg Roll, Sloan added the slapdash preparations are endemic of problems with the White House as a whole.
“Our primary concern is that the nation’s executive branch agencies are properly staffed, with personnel who are sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ community, as well as other marginalized Americans, and we see the changes in this year’s Easter Egg Roll event as reflective of the operational and staffing challenges the Trump administration is facing,” Sloan said.