Rainbow flags, prayers as US high court debates gay unions

Fabienne Faur
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Supporters of same-sex marriage gather outside the US Supreme Court waiting for its decision on April 28, 2014 in Washington, DC

Supporters of same-sex marriage gather outside the US Supreme Court waiting for its decision on April 28, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo/Mladen Antonov)

Washington (AFP) - Amid rainbow flags and prayers, the US debate over gay marriage spilled into the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court Tuesday as justices inside heard arguments on whether such marriages should be allowed throughout the United States.

The nine justices, who are due to decide in about two months whether to legalize gay marriage nationwide, "really hold our lives in their hands," said Colleen Condon, who recently married another woman.

In front of the steps of the highest court in the land, a group held up a huge multicolored flag, symbol of gay pride.

Alongside the steps, dozens of people waited patiently in line, hoping to attend just three minutes of the hearing, seated in rotation.

Condon, 44, traveled from Charleston, South Carolina to watch the proceedings. The gay lawyer's marriage is under appeal in the state.

Most of the hundreds of people gathered outside the Supreme Court back gay marriage.

They held placards reading "America is ready for the freedom of marriage" and "It's time for marriage equality."

One gay couple embraced, draped in a US flag, smiling and unfazed by traditional marriage advocates chanting on a loudspeaker: "Homosexuality is a threat for national security."

Others held signs reading "stop abortion" and "stop sodomy."

Standing a little to the side, Pastor Larry Hickam held signs inscribed with Bible passages.

"Jesus addressed the issue of marriage and he said that it was a man and a woman," said the pastor from Charity Baptist Tabernacle in Amarillo, Texas.

"He never said a man and a man or a woman and a woman."

- 'Just like anybody else' -

Brian Fitzpatrick, spokesman of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, brandished an anti-gay banner.

"God determines what's right and wrong. No human institution like the Supreme Court has the right to promote laws which contradict God's moral standards," he said.

Activists from groups like Catholics for Equality and Dignity USA, which support gay marriage, also made the trip.

"Catholics support LGBT equality. It's just our hierarchy (that doesn't), and they are evolving," said Catholics for Equality executive director Phil Attey.

Jo-Ann Shain and Mary-Jo Kennedy traveled from New York to proclaim, in a placard the couple held aloft, that they have been together for 33 years.

"We are a boring married couple just like anybody else. There is no difference," said Shain, bursting into laughter.

"Why we shouldn't have the same rights and privileges of marriage?"