WASHINGTON – Speaking before a bank of microphones on the Supreme Court steps moments after the argument over gay marriage in California ended, lawyers for both sides said the justices asked probing questions and did not reveal much about how they would decide the case.
Proponents in favor of legalizing gay marriage in California erupted in cheers and whistles as David Boies and Ted Olson emerged from the central door to the court. Both high-profile lawyers were part of the legal team arguing that the court should overturn the state ban.
Boies told reporters it was “amazing” that the proponents of Proposition 8, the initiative that prohibited gay marriage, made “no effort to defend the ban on gay marriage.”
The arguments against overturning the law focused on the role of the states in these cases, he said.
Olson said he didn’t know how the justices would rule, but noted that public opinion is on the side of allowing same-sex marriages. “We are confident of where the American people are going with this,” he said.
As the lawyers spoke, activists and protesters crushed up against a police cordon at the base of the court steps, chanting slogans both for and against same-sex marriage.
Spectators who were inside the courtroom said that the justices grilled the attorneys on both sides.
“The court asked penetrating questions,” said Charles Cooper, who argued before the bench in favor of California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“We think the hearing went very well,” said Andrew Pugno, a longtime proponent of Proposition 8 and part of the team of lawyers asking the court to uphold the law. He felt that Cooper, speaking for his side, laid out the case in favor of the ban “with great clarity.”
Pugno said he would like to see the justices rule that states can restrict same-sex couples from being lawfully married. He hopes the court will “return this to the people in the states where this debate belongs,” he said.
A largely pro-gay-marriage crowd of hundreds gathered outside the court hooted at exiting lawyers and anyone wearing street clothes – a sign the wearer had waited days to hear the arguments.
“It was absolutely worth it,” said Sabrina Canela, a Claremont-McKenna College student who had been waiting since Sunday and plans to get back in line for Wednesday’s arguments. “I think it’s probably one of the biggest cases we’ll see in our lives”
The crowd was peppered with people in red, which supporters of gay marriage said was the “color of love.” And small dance parties broke out at times toward the back of the crowd among gay-marriage supporters, who were arrayed in everything from pink full-body fishnet stockings to suits.
The mood outside ranged from serious –as a couple of roving gay-marriage opponents confronted individuals in the crowd on their views – to raucous.
Across the street, groups of gay-marriage opponents looked on.
“It’s hard to find our people here, said Joyce Ancoin, a member of the National Organization for Marriage who, along with her husband, Roy Ancoin, had traveled 500 miles from Massachusetts.
“Just because you’re loud and proud doesn’t mean you’re right,” said Roy. “Jesus didn’t do a lot of yelling when he was telling the law.”