NEW YORK – 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-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.
"I don't think this is a protest," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Pride Coalition. "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 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 parents say they won't 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."
The egg roll has been a Washington tradition since the mid-19th century. 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.