When pro-traditional-marriage protesters clashed with gay-marriage supporters in front of the Supreme Court, it was sometimes difficult to tell which were which because two of the most common signs — “EVERY CHILD DESERVES A MOM & DAD!” and “IT’S TIME FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY” — were both printed in white type against the same bright shade of red. On top of that, the fonts were nearly identical. So at a glance, some of the protesters looked oddly similar, almost coordinated. It was just one odd aspect of the surreal few minutes when two ideologically divergent crowds swirled together in front of the court as the justices heard arguments on whether or not to uphold California’s Proposition 8.
Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, tells National Review Online that more than 10,000 protesters congregated for the march. So it’s no surprise there was conflict. Before heading for the court, the crowd converged by the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall in front of a bandstand of sorts that read, “EVERY CHILD DESERVES A MOM AND A DAD” in English and in Spanish. The participants skewed more Bronx than backwoods — many had come down in 30 buses from New York City, a trip organized by Democratic New York state senator Ruben Diaz. The one marcher in camouflage seemed like an anomaly.
Though most of the signs were pre-printed, many protesters carried homemade ones — one read “Destroy Marriage, Destroys Family, Destroys America” and was topped with two small American flags. Another simply said “Jesus is Lord.” One family had a Guatemalan flag attached to a long stick, which was anchored to a piece of rolling luggage. Another carried a flag from El Salvador. And another sign said “Keep Calm and Marry On.”
A praise band played worship tunes, which elicited an energetic response from the crowd. Then Brown said a few words to the growing group: They would run into pro-gay-marriage protesters. Be polite. Also, Westboro Baptist Church would be there. “We condemn in the strongest terms any hatred toward any individual in any way,” he said. And people might try to stop their progress. If that happened, “we will simply kneel down and pray,” he said. “We will kneel down and pray.”
That warning turned out to be prescient. Though most of the march was unimpeded — even the weather was cooperative — by the time the group turned onto First Street and headed for the Supreme Court, it became evident that the smooth sailing was about to come to an end. The space in front of the court was crowded with pro-gay-marriage protesters, including one woman carrying a sign that said in rainbow writing:
YOU CALLED ME
The back of the sign cited Matthew 25:40 and read, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.”
The woman got in front of the Marriage March, blocking its way. From there, the whole thing got kind of scrambled. For much of the march, the person at the very front was a woman being pushed in a wheelchair carrying and blowing on what appeared to be a sequined shofar. She and the two people with her stayed in the very front for much of the group’s progress down First Street. But pro-gay-marriage protesters came between them and the rest of the group, and at one point, she was ahead of a group of protesters carrying a long yellow banner that said “Standing on the side of love.” It was all a little chaotic — Yahoo’s Chris Moody tweeted that a man in a rainbow flag punched a member of the Marriage March in the face and told Moody that he’d gotten punched in the stomach first — and came to a head when the march’s progress was totally impeded.
So the marchers did what they’d planned, and a group at the front knelt and prayed on First Street in front of the Supreme Court and facing a thatch of cameras.
Brown told me later that they’d planned to make speeches in front of the Supreme Court and had set up a portable podium, but that pro-gay-marriage protesters rushed the podium and kept them from using it. So they ditched the speeches and processed in front, wrapping back around the Capitol and returning to the Mall for more speeches and praise music.
“This is perfect!” Brown told me. “This is perfect! We got a rally down here, we marched right in front of the court, they heard us, perfect. It couldn’t have gone better.”