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Gay-marriage rivals protest at U.S. Supreme Court as case begins

Thousands of Americans representing diverse views on same-sex marriage demonstrated in front of the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday as the justices prepared to hear arguments in a case that may determine whether gay couples can marry.

The Rev. Susan Henderson of the Little River United Church of Christ in Annandale, Va., stood behind a rainbow sign. Henderson said she became a supporter of same-sex marriage after her daughter came out of the closet at 16.

“We just have to keep our minds open and let God keep speaking to us until we can see the wideness of God’s mercy and grace,” she said.

By 10 a.m., when arguments began before the nine justices, a procession of gay-marriage opponents arrived at the plaza in front of the court in Washington with signs that said “Every Child Deserves a Mom & Dad.”

“The purpose of marriage is written in our bodies,” said Pete Braudis, 67, who traveled from Groton, Mass., to attend the rally. “It’s for procreation and it’s for the unity of the couple. And our bodies show that. We’re made to fit together.”

Braudis, a retired chemical engineer, said he was “glad that homosexual people love each other, but it’s not marriage.”

Supporters of both sides overflowed the sidewalks and filled the street in front of the court. The U.S. Capitol police didn’t offer an estimate about the size of the crowd.

The nation’s high court considered same-sex marriage for the first time yesterday, taking up arguments on Proposition 8, a 2008 California ballot measure passed by voters that bars such unions.

At the hearing, Justice Anthony Kennedy raised the prospect that the court will decline to say whether the Constitution gives gays the right to marry. Kennedy, potentially the swing vote, twice asked whether the most prudent course for the court would be not to rule.

“I just wonder if the case was properly granted,” he said. He aimed questions at both sides during the argument.

A decision to back out of the case would let gay marriage resume in California.

Today, the court will weigh the legality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing gay unions on issues including benefits. The court will decide the cases by June.

Danielle Gerson, 24, a sales account executive for a technology company, traveled from New York to take part in the rally for marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Gerson watched from the sidewalk as a procession of gay-marriage opponents filled the street.

“These are the people that spread the hate that cause young LGBT kids to commit suicide,” she said. “I feel ashamed that these people feel so proud to spread such hate. I almost pity them.”

A man wearing a pink fishnet leotard, rainbow skirt and red plastic devil horns was cheered by gay-marriage supporters as he danced in front of demonstrators who carried signs that said “Same Sex Marriage Dooms Nation” and “Death Penalty 4 Fags.”

“This is the standard of God; there’s nothing extreme about it,” said Margie Phelps, 56, a member of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., who held the sign calling for gay people to be put to death. “It needs to be juxtaposed to this nonsense you’re entertaining.” Westboro members have frequently demonstrated against gay rights.

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