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Children swarm White House lawn for Easter egg roll

WASHINGTON—Thousands of children swarmed the South Lawn of the White House on Monday, pushing eggs across soggy grass with large spoons and hunting for hidden ones.

"Welcome to this happiest of traditions at the White House," said first lady Laura Bush, who was wearing a raincoat, as did her husband, on a cold and rainy morning. "In Washington, we know that spring has arrived when the White House lawn is filled with children for the Easter egg hunt."

With that, President Bush blew the opening whistle on a century-old tradition with a new wrinkle: Sprinkled among the supervising, photo-shooting, toddler-dragging parents this time were about 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples and their kids.

"We're helping people see that gay and lesbian couples go to the same things as any other families," said Jennifer Chrisler, the executive director of the Family Pride Coalition, which had urged its members to line up for tickets. For publicity's sake, and solidarity's, coalition families wore rainbow-hued leis.

"We're normal families," said Heather Davidson of Tacoma Park, Md., who attended with her partner, Rebecca Hawes, and their two kids. "We're so normal that it's easy for us to blend in."

They and other coalition members appeared late in the morning, long after the Bushes were gone, and weekend news reports attributed the timing to the White House PR machine. Not so, Chrisler said. The coalition's members had merely shown up at the same time for tickets last week and picked the same late-morning block of tickets.

Some more traditional parents were slightly miffed to find sexual politics at an Easter egg roll.

"My two 9-year olds asked why they had signs," said Lisa Rapuano of Baltimore. "I guess it's a lesson in democracy." She shrugged.

Faintly audible from the lawn were four protesters standing just beyond the exit gate. They'd flown in from Atlanta, Los Angeles and elsewhere to chant "Homo sex is a sin" into a megaphone.

Parents filing past them winced a little.

"It was a fabulous day," Chrisler said. "People were here for one thing only: to spend the day with their children."

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): EASTEREGGROLL

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