As the justices and lawyers laid out the arguments for and against same-sex marriage inside the US Supreme Court, the atmosphere outside was more celebratory.
With music pumping from a makeshift stage and warm spring sunshine beating down, supporters of marriage equality, who had been gathered in the US capital since before 8am, were determined to make the day a party.
Amid the rainbow flags and "momentum is growing" signs handed out by organisers on Tuesday morning, a number of supporters had brought touching handwritten tributes.
"My family," proclaimed a sign, with stick figures of "two mums, my sister and me", written by a young woman. It added: "How could this be wrong?"
Kathy Stickel's sign was simpler, but equally persuasive. It said: "Let love win."
Stickel said she had been a teacher at a Mormon seminary in California when Proposition 8, which restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples, was passed. The church's opposition to repealing the ban on gay marriage led her to leave the faith and California.
One man getting a lot of attention at the rally - "Did you see the guy with the Harry Potter sign?" was a popular refrain - was 26-year-old Rafael Petry from New York City. He carried a handmade, multicoloured sign that said: "Don't tread on Dumbledore's rights."
"After the series was over, [ Harry Potter author] J. K. Rowling gave an interview saying that Dumbledore was actually gay," Petry explained.
Early on, opponents of same-sex marriage were represented only by a small contingent from the Westboro Baptist Church, the incendiary church whose flock attends gay rights demonstrations with offensive signs. Nevertheless, they were well received, with a number of gay activists lining up to have their picture taken with a woman holding up a sign with the words, "Fags are beasts".
A more organised anti-gay- marriage effort was mounted by a number of faith organisations who gathered near the court and marched past the marriage-equality supporters in a good-natured, if ostentatious, protest.
A marching band thumped out the US national anthem beneath a banner reading: "The Supreme Court must respect natural law, same sex 'marriage' is not marriage".
The court was due to hear a second same-sex marriage case yesterday.
Some 300 anti-gay-marriage protesters carried red signs that said: "Every child deserves a mum and dad!"
Not all people of faith at the Supreme Court were there to oppose gay marriage, however. Among the supporters, including Catholics, was a woman who carried a banner reading, "Jesus had two dads".