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Clinton 1st President to Invite Gays for Talks

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From a Times Staff Writer

President Clinton has invited leaders of gay-rights groups to a meeting in the Oval Office today, the first time a President has invited gay activists to the White House to discuss policy issues.

Gay rights leaders are expected to ask Clinton to demonstrate his support for a march they plan in Washington April 25. Other topics are expected to include the deliberations over lifting of the ban on homosexuals in the military and Clinton’s role in fighting discrimination against homosexuals, including support for anti-discrimination legislation.

“We feel like we have a friend in the White House and we want to thank him for his leadership,” said Torie Osborn, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Clinton does not plan to attend the gay march, which organizers hope will show Americans that there is wide support for gay issues by attracting as many as 1 million participants, making it the largest demonstration in Washington history.

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Presidential aides said Wednesday that Clinton will not be available because he will be out of town that weekend attending a meeting of Senate Democrats. Thursday, they said that he plans to fly to Boston on the Sunday of the march to address a meeting of newspaper executives.

Gay activists have said they hope that, if Clinton is unable to appear, he will provide a videotaped message, join the marchers through an audio feed or take part in related events that will take place in Washington during the week of the march.

Those invited to the White House meeting today are Osborn, Tim McFeely of the Human Rights Campaign Fund; William Weybourn of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund; Thomas Stoddard of the Campaign for Military Service; Phill Wilson of the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum, and Billy Hileman and Nadine Smith, co-chairs of the march.

Former President George Bush invited several leaders of gay rights groups to the White House for the 1990 ceremonial signing of legislation that set up a mechanism for gathering hate-crime statistics. During the Jimmy Carter Administration in 1978, Midge Costanza, a special assistant to the President, met with gay leaders.

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