The law was at issue inside the Supreme Court chambers, but democracy was on vivid display just a stone's throw away as supporters and opponents of gay marriage made their presence known and voices heard on the plaza outside the high court.
"I believe all Americans have the right to marry who they want," said 39-year-old Eric Koszyk, one of thousands who gathered as the high court heard arguments for and against gay marriage. Mr. Koszyk married his wife on March 15 and said he wants his gay and lesbian friends to have their relationships recognized in the same way.
He finds it upsetting that two heterosexual people can meet up in a bar in Las Vegas, decide to get married and have the union recognized everywhere in the country but his friends who have been in committed homosexual relationships for 15 years cannot.
"I got to marry who I wanted to and so should my friends," said Koszyk.
Koszyk used to live in Washington state, though now he resides in Virginia, which he describes as "backwards" when it comes to same-sex marriage.
But Patricia Telemaque, a 19-year-old who came came up from Raliegh, North Carolina, with her church to protest same-sex marriage, rejected the idea that gay marriage was the equivalent of the struggle for racial equality and civil rights.
"I do not wake up everyday and decide to be an African American," said Miss Telemaque, "It's not a choice."
Miss Telemaque said children are best off with a mother and a father in their home, are rejected media across-the-board statements about people in her generation supporting same-sex marriage is "false".
She said most conversations she has had with people on the other side of the issue have been civil, though she is frustrated when they bring issues not dealing with marriage into the conversation.
"Those other issues are not what I am here for," said Miss Telemaque.
Antonia Arnautaki, 17, and Kyra Bell, 18, of Vienna, Va. said it was important for them to spend part of their spring break showing their support for same-sex marriage.
The two are co-presidents of their high school's Amnesty International chapter and also officers in their school's Gay-Straight Alliance.
Miss Bell said she sees same-sex marriage as a civil right and people who do not agree should not be opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage because it does not force religious groups to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
"It is clear to us," said Miss Arnautaki. "I can't believe we have to go to the Supreme Court to get equal rights to marriage."
Miss Arnautaki is the child of a single parent and while she is very happy with how she was raised.
"But I understand that I am missing out on things I would have had if I had two parents, even that other parent was another mom," said Miss Arnautaki.
LaSaundra Morgan, a 36-year-old single mother of five, said she came from North Carolina to protest same-sex marriage.
"We love them, we just don't agree with their perspective," said Ms. Morgan about the pro gay marriage activists around her.
Ms. Morgan said she felt it was important for her children to have a correct understanding of marriage.
Although there were reports of shouting matches and direct one-on-one confrontations in the competing demonstrations, Ms. Morgan said most people she had met on both sides of the issue had been civil with one another.
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