WASHINGTON – The biblical-marriage demonstrators were outnumbered 5-to-1 or more outside the Supreme Court Tuesday morning, but they were not lacking in vitriol or vulgarity.
“Homo Sex is Sin,” proclaimed one banner. A sign showed stick figures in an anal-sex position and the words “Fag is Sin.” “Dirty Homo, Stop Sinning,” proclaimed another large banner. A woman holding a sign that said “Fags Are Beasts” led a group of demonstrators in singing a parody of the Sam Smith and Mary J. Blige tune “Stay With Me” called “Fag Marriage, It Can’t Be,” and in a parody of Green Day’s “American Idiot”: “You wanna be an American sodomite/One nation controlled by fag media.”
With opponents like these, is it any wonder that the cause of gay equality is prevailing? Inside the marble temple, the justices were hearing oral arguments in a closely watched same-sex marriage case (Obergefell v. Hodges) that many expect will make such marriages legal coast to coast. Even if the high court doesn’t go that far yet, the nation is undeniably headed in that direction.
The scene that played out in front of the court Tuesday showed why: Gay and lesbian demonstrators were taunted as “perverts” and an “abomination to God,” but they answered, for the most part, with laughter and song.
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“Jesus Christ was not pro-homosexuality!” a man in military fatigues and sunglasses shouted into a portable sound system that squealed with feedback. “If he had been he would have been suing for gay wedding cakes!”
The man, who would identify himself only as Jeremiah from Tennessee, was part of a Facebook group that organized a conservative protest outside the court. Jeremiah held himself out as a superior example of masculinity to those on the other side of the argument. “This is what a man looks like, you fags,” he said.
Gay-rights activists chanted back at him: “We are all God’s children.”
The gay-rights activists formed a line that snaked around Jeremiah, and they sang, softly: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
“I’ve got good news for the homo,” Jeremiah taunted. “You can be homo no mo’.”
Some of the gay-rights activists laughed at his play on words. They surrounded him with rainbow flags and Human Rights Campaign banners. They chanted “love conquers hate.”
“God bless you,” one gay-rights demonstrator told him.
“We love you,” another said to him.
This is how gay men and lesbians won the battle for gay marriage in American public opinion: not with belligerence, but by peaceful example.
There were perhaps 3,000 people outside the court, on both sides of the street, and the minority of demonstrators opposed to same-sex marriage provided many provocations, from the “God Hates Fags” poster to a homemade sign that spelled “marraige” wrong. But most of the gay marriage supporters didn’t take the bait. They answered with signs that said “Love Wins” and “Make Love Legal” and “Keep Calm and Marry On.” Their rainbow-hued action was more carnival than demonstration. Several couples strolled about with signs saying how long – 28 years, 39?years – they had been together. A young girl carried a sign that said, “2 Moms + 3 Kids (equals) 1 Happy Family.”
Directly in front of the court, separated by about 20 feet, was a podium for the same-sex marriage groups and one for the traditional marriage groups. On the latter stage, influential pastor Dan Cummins set the tone with his assertion that “what’s at stake this week is whether the Supreme Court removes the final benchmark of any civilized nation.”
The same-sex marriage demonstrators often reacted playfully. One woman approached another holding a sign saying “I was queer, then I found Jesus,” and said: “Jesus had two dads, and he turned out great.” Not far away, where nine members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church were singing parody songs about “fags,” a large man, wearing a tutu and carrying a purse, danced along while a pair of lesbians sang the original words. At the other end of the block, where Jeremiah was delivering progressively more vulgar jeremiads about genitalia and feces, a soft-spoken man approached and introduced himself as a “gay Christian.”
Jeremiah thundered into the microphone: “There’s no such thing as a gay Christian! You are criminals against God.” Jeremiah informed the gay activists that they would “burn in hell” when a fiery-eyed Jesus returns. “The Supreme Court will not deliver you on Judgment Day.”
Here on earth, though, the judgment is turning against such venom.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.