- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

More than 100 homosexual parents who were among the first in line to get tickets to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll yesterday missed seeing President Bush and first lady Laura Bush open the festivities.

Although many spent Friday night on a sidewalk in advance of the ticket release Saturday, most received tickets for noon — three hours after the president milled through the crowd on the South Lawn.

“I’m disappointed by it,” said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of Family Pride Coalition. “It certainly has been our understanding that in years past, timed tickets had been given out on a first-come, first-served basis,” she said.

Asked whether she thought it unusual to receive tickets for such a late time after being near the front of the line, she said: “I don’t know if there was a change in procedure. That’s a good question for the White House.”

The White House said the earliest timed tickets this year were invitations doled out by the president and first lady. They went to children who volunteer from organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the YMCA.

“The number of public tickets is the same as in years past and has not changed as a result of this group’s participation,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. “Although the public tickets begin with times later in the morning, the event will have the same activities throughout the day for everyone to enjoy.”

Leah McElrath, 41, of Houston, attended the event with her partner, Cathy Renna, and their 6-month-old daughter, Rosemary.

“We look forward to the day when it’s not such a controversy,” said Miss McElrath, wearing a multicolored lei like other homosexual parents attending the event. “When my daughter’s an adult, I hope she’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.”

The morning festivities were held despite a chilly and steady drizzle. During the egg roll race, children used spoons to roll dyed eggs along the ground. Magicians and animal acts were on hand, and the first lady and senior administration officials read stories.

Thousands of children wandered the soggy South Lawn, where they spotted giant storybook characters such as Peter Cottontail, Curious George, Snoopy and the Easter Bunny.

The first couple donned raincoats to greet the families shortly after 9 a.m. from the South Portico’s terrace.

“Welcome to this happiest of traditions at the White House,” Mrs. Bush told the crowd. “In Washington, we know that spring has arrived when the White House lawn is filled with children for the Easter egg hunt.”

The president approached the egg roll course and blew the whistle to start the race. He mingled with the crowd, held and kissed a few babies, and posed for pictures with families in the first wave of guests.

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