Festival-like atmosphere outside Supreme Court as marriage arguments under way

Ikeita Cantu, left, and her wife Carmen Guzman hold banners outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, April 28, 2015.

Ikeita Cantu, left, and her wife Carmen Guzman hold banners outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Jose Luis Magana, AP

Ikeita Cantu, left, and her wife Carmen Guzman hold banners outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Jose Luis Magana, AP

Ikeita Cantu, left, and her wife Carmen Guzman hold banners outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, April 28, 2015.

WASHINGTON — Advocates of same-sex marriage filled the sidewalks outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, waving rainbow-colored flags and taking selfies. Opponents were fewer in number, but louder and with towering signs quoting the Bible and using a microphone to denounce what they called the nation’s demise.

It was a festival-like atmosphere, complete with warm spring sunshine and people dressed as nuns and one man wearing a tutu, as the justices heard arguments inside about whether gay marriage should be permitted nationwide. Most people outside said they were there to celebrate a historic moment.

“We just had to be here,” said Shelly Bailes, a 74-year-old from Davis, California, who has been with her wife, Ellen Pontac, for more than 40 years.

Demonstrators in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Jose Luis Magana, AP

Demonstrators in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, April 28, 2015.

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Protesters and advocates had begun lining up last week for coveted seats inside the courtroom. A cheer went up as the doors opened, and VIPs muscled through the crowd with private security in tow. Rep. Jerry Nadler, a proponent of same-sex marriage, said he had arranged for a seat in advance. While the final ruling won’t come until late June, Nadler said he sees the ruling as a slam dunk.

“How many issues can you help so many people and hurt nobody?” said Nadler, D-N.Y.

Opponents said they had focused their grassroots organizing on Saturday’s “March of Marriage” instead of Tuesday’s court hearing, which was probably why they appeared to be in the minority. One large group said they were evangelical Christians who could help others find God. A sign read “Sodomy is worthy of death,” while a man shouted into a microphone that same-sex marriage was an ugly perversion.

Peter Sprigg, with the Family Research Council, stood quietly in the back, holding a sign that said “Every Child Deserves a Mom and a Dad.” He said the smaller presence of opponents to same-sex marriage on Tuesday should not be interpreted to mean that Americans want it legalized.

“It’s not for the court to resolve controversial social issues,” Sprigg said, echoing arguments being made inside. “It’s for the democratic process.”

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