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First lady trades jabs with protester

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WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama had a rare run-in with an audience heckler Tuesday during a fund-raising event in Washington for the Democratic National Committee.

The outburst from the crowd distracted Obama from her prepared remarks, prompting her to threaten to leave if the woman wanted to keep speaking.

“One of the things I don’t do well is this,” she said, according to a pool reporter who attended the event. Television cameras were not allowed inside.

Obama walked toward the protester, saying she could “listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice,” according to the pool report.

The protester was identified as Ellen Sturtz of the gay rights group GetEQUAL. She was calling on President Barack Obama to sign an executive order barring discrimination based on sexual orientation by federal contractors.

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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at an inaugural ball Monday night. (Alex Garcia, Chicago Tribune)

Sturtz was escorted out of the event, held at a private residence in northwest Washington. Tickets for the fund-raiser ranged from $500 to $10,000.

Early Wednesday morning, Sturtz said in a statement released by GetEQUAL that she had “lived and worked in the closet, hiding who I was in order to earn a living.”

“I had planned to speak tonight with DNC officials but, as the First Lady was talking about our childrens’ future and ensuring that they have everything they need to live happy and productive lives, I simply couldn’t stay silent any longer,” Sturtz added. “I’m looking ahead at a generation of young people who could live full, honest, and open lives with the stroke of the President’s pen, and I was hoping that the First Lady would share my concern for all of our young people.”

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