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Sunday, November 9, 1997 Published at 15:00 GMT


Clinton addresses gay activists

President Clinton has addressed a fund-raising dinner in Washington for a gay rights organisation - the first time an American president has attended such an event.

Speaking at a black tie fund-raising dinner for the United States' largest gay and lesbian political organisation, the Human Rights Campaign, Mr Clinton voiced support for legal measures to protect homosexuals from discrimination in the workplace and stressed the importance of the conference on hate crimes he is hosting Monday.

[ image: TV star Ellen De Generes]
TV star Ellen De Generes
He received a warm reception from an audience that included several celebrities including television star, Ellen De Generes who recently came out in public as being gay.

There were dissenters present as well though. Some AIDS campaigners protested that too little government money was being directed at research into the disease and organisations representing traditional values made their feelings known too.

[ image: Protestors had their say too]
Protestors had their say too
Mr Clinton appeared to enjoy the confrontation and the opportunity to firmly stress his support for gay rights.

For all his enthusiasm, though, Mr Clinton suggested no policy changes and White House aides, apparently worried at the reaction of America's conservative Christians, have tried to downplay his appearance, calling it community outreach - similar, they said, to a recent dinner he spoke at for Italian Americans.

What it does suggest though is the growing clout of America's well-heeled gay lobby inside a Democratic Party desperately in need of new sources of funding.

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