WASHINGTON (AP)--It's been a busy week already for gay and lesbian activists, what with a new civil-unions bill becoming law in Vermont and the Supreme Court hearing arguments over whether the Boy Scouts can bar homosexuals from serving as troop leaders.

To top it off, they've got a march on the National Mall.

That's where organizers of the Millennium March on Washington hope 300,000 people will show up Sunday in support of gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights, the fourth such march on the mall in the last 21 years.

Diane Hardy-Garcia, executive director of the march, has been planning the event for years, hoping it will mobilize supporters into an important voting bloc this presidential election year.

However, it is not without its critics. And the most vocal ones are other gay- and lesbian-rights groups who say the event has little grassroots support.

"There's many things to celebrate and a lot of work to yet to do," Hardy-Garcia said. "One of the reasons we do marches on Washington is something that is important to the gay community--the real need to bring more people into this movement."

To do that, they're staging a concert featuring Garth Brooks and Melissa Ethridge, rallying between the Washington Monument and the Capitol and broadcasting the events over the Internet.

Other notable guests include the parents of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay University of Wyoming student who died in October 1998 after being beaten into a coma and tied to a fence; and the mother of Pfc. Barry Winchell, who was slain at Fort Campbell, Ky., after rumors surfaced that he was gay.

"I'm just trying to do whatever I can so that no one has to be afraid to serve their country anymore," said Patricia Kutteles of Kansas City, Mo., who has said she will sue the Army for $1.8 million in the death of her son.

"I want my son's death to count for something," she said. "I don't want his death to have just been in vain. I want something good and positive to come out of it."

Critics praise the intentions of the event but question how it has been organized. William Dobbs, a member of a committee of activists formed to oppose the march, says decisions about the event were made by people in Washington who failed to garner enough support on the local level and from minority groups.

"Celebrities draw attention, but in the end it's supposed to be a civil-rights march," Dobbs said. "It shouldn't be just a feel-good event. But those past marches came about when there was a real community consensus to march on the capital and push the government for changes."

New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn, whose Manhattan district is home to a big portion of the city's gay and lesbian population, urged her constituents to stay away to concentrate on efforts closer to home. The National Association of Black and White Men Together rescheduled a board meeting originally set for this weekend in Washington to show its opposition to the march.

"How do we advance this movement that really is diverse if we have a 99.9% audience this weekend that is white?" asked Mandy Carter of Tampa, Fla., who helped organize the 1987 and 1993 gay-rights marches in Washington. "For a lot of people of color, where are our faces and voices?"

March supporters dismiss the criticism.

"There have been disagreements with every social-justice movement and past marches," said David Smith, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. "The controversy right now is not as important as the fact that we are all coming together to work for the common goal."

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