Street party rages as US high court debates gay marriage
Rainbows and colourful banners compete with critics' marching band on doorstep of top court
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".