Gay Group's Plans to Join Easter Egg Roll Create Controversy

Associated Press
Saturday, January 21, 2006

NEW YORK, Jan. 20 -- Three months before the annual Easter egg roll at the White House, the usually festive event is already taking on a divisive edge because of plans by gay- and lesbian-led families to turn out en masse in hopes of raising their public profile.

The Family Pride Coalition and other organizers envision the April 17 action as a celebration that will earn goodwill and showcase their families engaging in the annual tradition.

"It's important for our families to be seen participating in all aspects of American life," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of Family Pride.

Yet some conservatives, alerted to the plans this week, accuse gay activists of trying to "crash" an event for children and turn it into a forum for ideological politicking. Some groups are discussing ways to respond.

"It's improper to use the egg roll for political purposes," said Mark Tooley of the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy. Tooley wrote a critical article this week in the Weekly Standard magazine about the planned event that has circulated widely on conservative Web sites.

Since the article appeared, Chrisler said Family Pride has received "a flood of hate-filled, venomous messages telling us that our families aren't welcome."

On conservative chat rooms, some critics of Family Pride suggested the White House could make the egg roll an invitation-only event, as it did in 2003, when attendance was limited to military families. Other critics said conservatives should mobilize to outnumber gay families at the egg roll.

Susan Whitson, press secretary to first lady Laura Bush, indicated the White House was unlikely to restrict admission to the egg roll.

"All families are really welcome to attend," she told the Associated Press on Friday, provided they comply with rules that each family group have no more than two adults and include at least one child under 8.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company