- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

President Obama's White House saved Easter Egg Roll tickets for gay and lesbian parents, reaching out to groups that felt ostracized by previous administrations.

The White House would not say how many tickets were set aside for the group for Monday's annual celebration, only noting that it was far fewer than the large block set aside for military families and the 2,000 saved for D.C. public schools. There also is a batch for administration employees and their children.

The White House Office of Public Liaison coordinated with several groups representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues and saved a group of tickets for those families.

Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, said 10 families from her group will attend the egg roll, thanks to the new White House policy.

“This president made sure there were going to be LGBT families at this event and wanted to make that happen and proactively reached out to us,” she told The Washington Times, adding that the White House “actively encouraged” the LGBT community to look for tickets online and that many families did so.

“It's different from the Bush White House, which showed a real reticence to engage with us,” she said.

Ms. Chrisler said the families that participated over the past few years felt like they were being hidden from the press, and noticed the president and first lady were not on the lawn at the same time they were.

“It's clear to me that when the Obama administration thinks about American families, they think about LGBT families, as well,” she said.

It's the second of several changes to the egg roll implemented this year. Tickets were distributed online only, drawing complaints from some who don't have access to a computer, but praise from others who think the change allows for more national participation.

Monday's egg roll on the White House South Lawn, a tradition dating back 130 years, will include families from 45 states and the District, an aide from the first lady's office said.

Before the online system was in place, families had to line up on the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion.

Also this week, D.C. Public Schools announced its plans for distributing the 2,000 egg roll tickets it received from the White House.

Chancellor Michelle Rhee has chosen 20 schools, and the principals will pick the students who will get to go to the egg roll.

She joined Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday to hand out 200 tickets at Plummer Elementary School in Southeast.

In a release, D.C. officials announced they chose Plummer because of the school's “growth in student achievement and other factors.”

“The secretary's office was also impressed by letters written by third-grade students describing what they would do if elected president,” the release read.

Mrs. Rhee will distribute the rest of the tickets to “successful students in schools across the District who would benefit from the opportunity to participate in this extraordinary event at the White House.”

In addition to Plummer, students at the following elementary schools will get tickets: Key, Barnard, Brent, Browne, Cleveland, Emery, Francis-Stevens, Langdon, Ludlow-Taylor, Malcolm X, Miner, Martin Luther King, Montgomery, Noyes, Payne, Ross, Turner at Green, Truesdell and Webb-Wheatley.

D.C. officials also announced that high school student athletes from H.D. Woodson, Wilson and School Without Walls will volunteer for the soccer and basketball stations at the event.

The first lady's office estimated attendance would be more than the 22,000 in previous years, and said instead of funding the egg roll with corporate sponsorships, the money will come from leftover funds from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

This year's theme is “Let's go play,” and it encourages America's youth to lead healthy and active lives, the White House said.

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