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Prop. 8 hearing draws thousands to Supreme Court

Church groups and other opponents of gay marriage vie for attention with same-sex couples, their children and other advocates of overturning California's ban.

March 26, 2013|By Brian Bennett and Wes Venteicher, Washington Bureau
  • A supporter of same-sex marriage, left, faces off with opponents outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington during the hearing over California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8.
A supporter of same-sex marriage, left, faces off with opponents outside… (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg )

WASHINGTON — Supporters of same-sex marriage sang and cheered as a boom box played "Party in the U.S.A.," the pop song by Miley Cyrus. A man dressed in pink fishnet stockings and devil horns spun in circles. One woman held a sign that read: "Marriage equality makes us dance."

Religious groups marched in a quiet parade, red and gold banners on poles billowing above them. Corralled by dozens of police officers, hundreds of people in the procession waved signs that said: "Kids do best with a mom and dad" and "Vote for holy matrimony."

Thousands of raucous demonstrators jostled for space Tuesday in front of the white marble Supreme Court incised with the promise of "Equal justice under law" as the nine justices debated the legality of Proposition 8, the California initiative that banned gays from matrimony.

Sarah Garlinger, an accountant in Wheaton, Ill., and Anita Selvaggio, who works at a Chicago television station, came to witness the historic arguments.

The two women have been together for 14 years and were married in Vermont in 2003. "The decision impacts us so closely and personally," Selvaggio said. "We wanted to be a part of history."

Roy Ancoin, a member of the National Organization for Marriage, and his wife, Joy, traveled from Massachusetts and found themselves outnumbered by boisterous advocates for gay marriage.

"Just because you're loud and proud doesn't mean you're right," Ancoin said. "Jesus didn't do a lot of yelling when he was telling the law."

Proponents of gay marriage erupted in shouts and whistles as David Boies and Theodore B. Olson emerged from the central door to the court. The high-profile lawyers were part of the legal team arguing to overturn the state ban.

The lawyers spoke to a bank of reporters as demonstrators crushed up against a police cordon at the base of the court steps, chanting slogans for and against same-sex marriage.

About 200 members of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, N.C., rode buses for six hours to call for the sanctity of marriage, said Patrick L. Wooden Sr., pastor of the African American church.

"Being a father myself, I don't see how anyone could take the position that moms and dads are optional," he said.

Aidan Grennell, a young man in his 20s who stood outside the court to show support for the two women who raised him, said it was more important for a child to be raised by good parents than to have a father and a mother.

"You don't have to support gay marriage, but I think we should respect same-sex parents," he said.

Richard Wynder, a 33-year-old electrical engineer who grew up in Cypress in Orange County but now lives in Aldie, Va., came to Capitol Hill before dawn Tuesday with his parents. While he was waiting for his turn to sit in the courtroom, he argued with gay marriage proponents also in line.

"Some people are so busy using words like 'bigot,' it slows down the debate," he said.

Wally Suphap, who grew up in Granada Hills in Los Angeles, spent the night on the sidewalk to ensure he would get a seat. Suphap, now a lawyer in Hong Kong, booked a trip to Washington for the case.

"As a gay American, I want to have the right to marry in my home state," Suphap said.

Suphap said he called his mother the night before the Proposition 8 vote in November 2008. His mother, who runs a Thai restaurant in Van Nuys called Fortune House, has always been supportive of him being gay, he said, and he urged her to help defeat the measure.

"She quickly changed the subject," he said. "I think she voted for it."

brian.bennett@latimes.com

wes.venteicher@latimes.com

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