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Clinton Faces Criticism From Gays, Republicans During California Trip

Clinton's arrival

By Jill Dougherty/CNN

SAN FRANCISCO (AllPolitics, June 10) -- With the Golden Gate Bridge as his backdrop, President Clinton on Sunday praised the work being done to convert the Presidio, a former military installation, into a national park.

"All of our national parks are at risk," he said. "Too many of them have fallen into disrepair. We're working hard to protect them."


But he got no praise from San Francisco's gay and lesbian community, which has been angry over his opposition to same- sex marriages and his support for a Republican bill that would limit legal marriage to a man and a woman. (758K QuickTime movie)

About 200 protesters gathered outside the house of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, where the president attended a fund- raiser Sunday evening.

And in a gay church in the Castro District, 300 people gathered to urge the president to change his position on the proposed law. (253K WAV sound)

"We realize it's a political game he's playing but it's also our lives that he's playing with," said one parishioner. "And he's hurt me."

Protest in a church

The Rev. Jim Mitulski, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church -- with a congregation that is 95 percent gay or lesbian -- said that at least one gay marriage ceremony is performed there each week. Such marriages are not legally recognized in any state.

Clinton had strong support from gays in the 1992 election and said Friday he did not think any president had been more sensitive to the "fundamental human concerns or legitimate interests of gay Americans."

Earlier, in Las Vegas, the president ran into another political hornets' nest -- this one over some FBI files. Those files contained the names of prominent Republicans.

The president said the White House's request for those files in 1993 was a mistake.

"It appears to have been a completely honest bureaucratic snafu," he said, "when we were trying to straighten out who had -- who should get -- security clearances to come to the White House."

In Washington, Leon Panetta, the president's chief of staff, offered an apology.

"It is an inexcusable mistake," Panetta said. "I think apologies are owed to those that are involved here." (121K WAV sound)

But Republicans brushed off the apology -- and some called for Congressional hearings into the incident.

"The president said he didn't read the files, nobody read the files," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey. "It's like 'I didn't inhale.' It has about the same level of credibility." (94K WAV sound)

The White House maintains nothing improper was done with the files, and they were turned over to the FBI.

The White House and the FBI now say they are tightening procedures for dealing with sensitive personnel background information.


Also while in Las Vegas, Clinton attended another fund- raiser, and said that he supports a national commission to look into the effects of gambling.

Clinton was scheduled to fly to San Diego after the San Francisco fund-raiser. In San Diego, the president plans to speak on the issues of crime and immigration, and then fly to Los Angeles to attend another Democratic fund-raiser.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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