It was noticeably quieter outside the Supreme Court Wednesday, just a day after thousands of demonstrators on both sides of the debate over same-sex marriage converged here to demonstrate during oral arguments over the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California's voter-approved gay marriage ban.
On Wednesday, as the court heard arguments on DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, there were no dancing drag queens, no sensational shouting matches or bagpiper marching bands. Same-sex marriage supporters had the place mostly to themselves. A few thousand sign-wielding anti-DOMA protesters mingled cheerfully along the sidewalks in front of the court and chatted with each other over music playing from nearby loudspeakers.
Other than a few oddball outliers, demonstrators who oppose same-sex marriage were scarce. The only people advocating in favor of DOMA were members of the intentionally confrontational Westboro Baptist Church, a tiny group from Kansas known for picketing funerals of fallen U.S. service members. (Despite its name, Westboro is not affiliated with any national denomination.)
There was also a man dressed in 18th-century garb who said he was "the spirit of George Washington," there to protect traditional marriage. And across the street from the court, a lone man named Ronald Block peeked his head over a homemade sign that included a picture of Obama and a Nazi swastika. These people were not affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage, the group that led Tuesday's march.
Other than a few young people who playfully taunted members of the Westboro group—who left the scene before arguments ended inside the court—there were few signs of confrontation as people awaited news from inside the court.
It was a very different scene Tuesday, when both supporters and opponents of gay marriage flooded the streets surrounding the Supreme Court building.
While pro same-sex marriage activists filled the sidewalks, thousands more who opposed such unions walked through the street as part of a "March for Marriage" that began earlier that day on the National Mall. The anti-gay marriage demonstrators, a coalition of mostly Latino and African-American church groups, far outnumbered their ideological opponents Tuesday when they marched past the court building. While there was some shouting and an incident where one pro-gay marriage demonstrator threw a punch, the morning's events were lively but peaceful.