Feds fight to keep Kilpatrick pal Bobby Ferguson in prison

Both sides clash in festive atmosphere outside court

Oralandar Brand Williams and Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — The scene outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday was colorful and boisterous, as supporters on both sides of the gay marriage issue made their voices heard.

Some sang and quoted Scriptures, while others shouted what some deemed offensive remarks.

Rainbow flags and signs featuring a yellow equal sign on a blue background flew next to large posters with messages condemning gays and lesbians as well as same-sex marriage.

A line began forming late last week outside the high court as people try to get seats to hear the historic arguments.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse walked hand in hand on the way into the hearings as they passed a gauntlet of those who oppose them in their battle questioning the legality of gay marriage while others clapped and shouted "thank you!"

The Hazel Park nurses whose case challenging Michigan's ban on gay marriage was heard by the Supreme Cour, smiled nervously as they walked through the crowd of at least 1,000.

"This is exciting," said DeBoer's and Rowse's co-counsel Carole Stanyar as she walked next to the couple and the other attorneys going into the Supreme Court building against a blare of competing debaters outside the court who swarmed them.

Most people outside said they were there to celebrate a historic moment.

"We just had to be here," said Shelly Bailes, a 74-year-old from Davis, California, who has been with her wife, Ellen Pontac, for more than 40 years.

Sybil Offen of Plymouth Township has supported DeBoer and Rowse since the beginning of their case. She attended the eight-day federal trial in Detroit in March 2014 that ended with a ruling in favor of the two women, saying they should by able to marry and jointly adopt one another's children.

"No one could have believed we would get here," said Offen, holding a "Justice 4 All" sign.

Matthew Baker and his husband, Chris Bradford, of Huntington Woods stood in front of the court's front steps holding signs that read "Please Don't discriminate" and "Love Makes Family." They were there to show support for legalizing gay marriage in Michigan.

"We're just happy to be here," Bradford said.

Bradford and Baker were married in Massachusetts, the first state to allow legalized same-sex marriage, in 2004.

Meanwhile, members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church hoisted signs declaring that God hates homosexuals, and "Same-sex marriage dooms nations," complete with musical accompaniment.

Signs from the other side included "Love is love," "Justice for All" and "Let me get married, like the other 90%." Also, "If I can't marry my boyfriend, I'll marry your daughter!"

Ryan Aquilina, a native of Oxford, Michigan, held a "Marry me, Scalia" sign, referring to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who has been skeptical of creating a constitutional right for gay marriage.

"There have been other states that haven't defended their (gay marriage) bans," Aquilina said. "Those attorneys general should be commended for standing on the right side of history."

Opponents said they had focused their grassroots organizing on Saturday's March of Marriage instead of Tuesday's court hearing, which was probably why they appeared to be in the minority.

Peter Sprigg, with the Family Research Council, stood quietly in the back, holding a sign that said "Every Child Deserves a Mom and a Dad." He said the smaller presence of opponents to same-sex marriage Tuesday should not be interpreted to mean that Americans want it legalized.

After the arguments, John Bursch, who argued Michigan's case against overturning the state's voter-approved ban on gay marriage, told reporters the arguments went "exactly as we expected" with "very active" questioning from the justices, who "all seemed to have an open mind."


Associated Press contributed.