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Meet the People Waiting in Line for History

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Some of the people bundled in blankets started lining up outside the Supreme Court Friday. They didn't want to risk missing a glimpse of history, they told The Advocate. Some kind souls were braving chilly weather as a favor for friends, whose place they were holding. 

Some are getting paid to hold a place in line. Those are the folks who are most concerned about "the integrity of the line." One of the folks from a line-standing company has put together a list of everybody as they got in line. It’s informal. It has no legal standing, but they say it has some moral standing and creates a sense of community and a sense of confidence that the list will be followed.

Then police will eventually show up, at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, and pass out numbers that determine the sequence in which people enter the Supreme Court — until seats run out.

Photography by Yannick Delva/The Advocate

 

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Brooklyn Fowler and Sabine Grutter
These Canadians expect to see "an enormous step toward functional equality." There's nothing quite like being "part of history in the making," they say. Canada has had marriage equality since 2005, but they warn that doesn't mean the struggle for civil rights has ended: "Gender politics are extremely difficult. Trans people die every day in this country and other countries. So we're not done by any stretch. This isn't the last time we'll be sitting out here for civil rights." 
 
 
 

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Bradley Ehrlich

In 2013, Ehrlich was outside the Supreme Court for the Defense of Marriage Act case. "I recently moved back to New York City and was kind of just like, How can I be so close and not be there to see history in the making?" So he bundled up and snuggled in the cold outside the Supreme Court with fellow line-waiters for a chance at witnessing history again. "I don't want to jinx it, but I have a feeling it is going to go the way of equality," he says. He's so friendly with everyone else in line, you'd think they came together. "We just met," he says. "I feel like everyone here is sort of becoming family. We all share something in common and that is that we are here to see history." But maybe not all are on the same side. Rumor has it that the man whose spot is being held in line next to him isn't rooting for marriage equality. 

 

 

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Trey Burgess

“I’m from Alabama. I’m a Christian, I love Jesus," says Trey Burgess. "I’m hoping that a marriage between a man and a woman will be upheld, not a same-sex marriage."

The people around Burgess aren't so happy with him — they say he's cut into the line. "I’m not trying to beat these people out," he contends. "I talked to officers when I got here and they said as people leave and come and go, you can move up. I saw a guy move up and leave this spot. He moved over."

He says it's unfair that so many others are being paid to be there as place-holders. "The rules say it’s first come, first served, but most of these people are being paid to be here," he says. "Most of these people don’t give a rip about the issue."

But if you ask Burgess, it isn't up to him or anyone else who gets in the door to the Supreme Court. "I’m just hoping that the Lord will bless me and open the door," he says. "I may not be doing right, and if I’m not the Lord is not going to let me in, but I’m just hoping for mercy somehow to get in there. I’m also a lawyer, and I feel like if I can get in there and lay eyes on those justices and see this oral argument go down, I think it’s going to help me as a lawyer too. But, I’m mainly here for the spiritual reasons.”

 

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Brandon Dawson

Brandon Dawson (left) lives just an hour outside of D.C., in Warrenton, Va. He says he's in line partly to "see what happens" and for the conversation. “I’m gay, so of course I think equality should be offered everywhere," he says, "and it’s not hurting anybody else." Dawson says the Bible is misunderstood. "I’ve always learned by the Ten Commandments and 'love thy neighbor,' and I don’t see anywhere in the Ten Commandments on how to hate." 

 

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Casey Oakes

Casey Oakes is "a Jersey boy" but actually lives in D.C., where he works for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. "But I'm kind of here on my own time," he kids, having been in line since Monday at 6 a.m. "There's Friday people round the corner," he laughs, noting how the days are broken up by geography. He isn't even sure he'll get in. The cold isn't so bad, he says. "The line has been very friendly and civil about going to the visitor center to use the restroom and warm up. But it's a lot of bundling and blankets." Oakes was outside the Supreme Court on the day the DOMA and Proposition 8 rulings came down. "It was just a day of euphoria for me," he says. "I've always loved my country, I've always just been incredibly patriotic, and it was the first time I felt like my country really loved me back. I remember remarking on the day, that it was the first time the colors of the rainbow were red, white, and blue."
 
 

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Chris Pyle

Chris Pyle is studying journalism at American University in D.C. He's holding a place in line but doing it as a favor. "See that man covered by the blanket over there — he's my old AP U.S. history teacher from high school," he says." I went to high school in Virginia and moved out here to D.C. to go to college. Well, his daughter really, really wants to see the Supreme Court case tomorrow. She's 12 and she had her soccer tryouts today. So I 'm here holding her place so she can come see it. It's great to help someone this age to cultivate their political interests. On top of that, this is great excuse to get of the dorm and be a part of history."

 

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Olivia Franzen

Olivia Franzen is a college student from Bakersfield, Calif., and had only just gotten into D.C. about 7 p.m. Monday. "I was sitting in a park eating some popcorn and I saw a man walk by and he asked me what was going on with me," she says. "I told him nothing much. He said, 'Do you want to join me for the sit in?' and I was like 'What sit-in?' because, you know, California. And so he invited me to come hang out and it’s for a good cause." She might be outside the Supreme Court by happenstance, but it's still personal to her. "One of my best friends is gay, and I’d like to see her marriage one day. Her and her girlfriend have been dating for two years. I want to see it everywhere, because I know how it feels not to be able to have it.”

 

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Jarrod Irwin
 
Jarrod Irwin says he attended the trial for the Michigan case when it was at the district court level in Detroit, "and basically I want to see how it ends." He really, really wants to see how it ends, though. Irwin is from Wisconsin and arrived outside the Supreme Court at 10 p.m. Saturday. He's wearing layers to keep warm. "I'm expecting it will be in in favor of marriage equality, 5-4."
 
 

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John Fisher
 
Among Ehrlich's neighbors in line is John Fisher from Piscataway, N.J. "I've been interested in civil rights and civil liberties type things for many many years," he says, "even before I knew this specific one would apply to my family, which it does. I think it's our modern civil rights issue." 
 
 

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Lane Hudson

Activist Lane Hudson was also at the Supreme Court for the hearings two years ago. "I watched the arguments and the decision handed down, and it was a very meaningful experience to watch history unfold, and I just wanted to do it again. And hopefully this is the last time we have to go through this."

"It gets crazy in the morning," he warns. "People trying to cut in line. It's up to people to be fair. And some people just aren't fair."

 

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Michael Caballero

"I'm actually holding a spot for two," he says. "I'm friends with a couple from Texas. I'm in support of same-sex marriage. And I've been following a case with them. I'm optimistic. I hope come June we have great news." What does he get in compensation for braving the cold? "Great friendship," he laughs.

 

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Michael Steinberg

One of the cases being heard today is out of Michigan, where Michael Steinberg is from. He's the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan. "I've been working on this issue for as long as I can remember," he says. "This is going to be a landmark case and there aren't many times in my career when I get to see a landmark case being argued." Plus he knows the litigants and one of the attorneys involved. "I think love will win."

 

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Tom Kelly

"I'm down from Boston," says Tom Kelly, "but I've been visiting for about a week. I came down originally for something else. But I knew I'd stay for this." He's cold and surprisingly wet ("was not expecting to be") and he's been waiting in line since Sunday. "I don't think there are a lot of truly historic moments that you know are going to happen in advance," he says. "Some things you only figure out later are going to be to a crescendo of sorts. I guess I want to someday be able to tell my kids I was here. I want to just be in the room when it all happens. I guess I like that I live in a country where you can do that — granted, you have to stay in line for 68 hours, but 68 hours later, you know, there you are."

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