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White House Easter: Gay Friendly?

Hundreds of gay and lesbian parents hoping to take their families to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll plan to start lining up Friday evening to make sure they get tickets for the Monday event.

Thousands of tickets — an estimated 16,000 last year — are given away on a first-come basis beginning at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

National Park Service officials said Wednesday that children of all ages may attend as long as there is at least one child 7 years old or younger, and no more than two adults per group.

First lady Laura Bush's office issued a statement saying all families are welcome to attend.

"We're not protesting the president's policies on gay families," Jennifer Chrisler, the executive director of the Family Pride Coalition, the organizer of those attending, told the New York Times. "We are, however, helping him understand that gay families exist in this country and deserve the rights and protections that all families need."

"I don't think this is a protest," Chrisler, told the Associated Press. "Showing up, participating fully in an American tradition, showing Americans that we do exist, that in our minds isn't a protest."

Some say the gay and lesbian parents are playing politics.

"I think it's inappropriate to use a children's event to make a political statement," said Mark D. Tooley, of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

The gay and lesbian parents say they will not carry signs or chant slogans, but will wear rainbow-colored leis as a unifying symbol.

"The message is that gay and lesbian families are everywhere in this country," said Chrisler. "We care about the same things that all parents care about: providing our children with every opportunity and every experience possible."
In 2004 President Bush supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Last year, President Bush said in an interview with The New York Times that while "children can receive love from gay couples," he believed that "studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman."

According to The White House, the egg roll has been an annual Washington tradition dating back to 1878 and President Rutherford B. Hayes. It is the White House's largest public event for children 6 and under. Children use spoons to push colored eggs through the grass in a race. Past events have included petting zoos and White House staff members in bunny costumes.

The president sometimes makes a brief appearance, and the first lady often reads a story. The White House has not announced plans for this year.

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