Advocates both for and against same-sex marriage milled about in front of the Supreme Court building, looking for a place to stake a claim for their viewpoint.
Same-sex marriage in the United States
The questions raised by Supreme Court justices as they considered Tuesday whether they should rule that same-sex marriage should be made legal nationwide covered a gamut of rights concerns -- religious, equal protection, states' ability to enact their own laws.
In two and a half hours of oral arguments, the line of questions and the answers by attorneys representing both sides made clear that all concerned recognize the potential for the court's ruling to be history-making.
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called same-sex marriage "the greatest social experiment of our time" and said that "children do not need experiments," but rather the love of a mother and father at the third annual March for Marriage rally Saturday supporting traditional marriage on Capitol Hill.
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments Tuesday that could wind up legalizing gay marriage nationwide, dozens of Christian leaders have issued a call to civil authorities to preserve "the unique meaning of marriage in the law" -- but also to "protect the rights of those with differing views of marriage."
When it takes up same-sex marriage cases from four states April 28, the Supreme Court will officially be considering just two constitutional questions.
But judging from the outpouring of friend-of-the-court or "amicus" briefs, the court is expected to affect the very definition of marriage in American society.
Analysis: The Supreme Court will decide whether to allow same-sex marriage nationwide later this year and there is little doubt which way it's leaning.
The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear four cases over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, tackling the questions of whether the 14th Amendment requires states to allow such marriages and whether it requires them to recognize same-sex marriages licensed in other states.
The same-sex marriage movement lost its first major case in a federal appeals court Thursday after a lengthy string of victories, creating a split among the nation's circuit courts that virtually guarantees review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 2-1 ruling from the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed lower court rulings that had struck down gay marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
A U.S. District Court judge's ruling that Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional "overturns the will of Arizona voters and reflects a misunderstanding of the institution of marriage," the state's Catholic bishops said Friday.
"For centuries, marriage has been recognized as the lifelong union of a man and a woman that benefits the common good by respecting the unique and complementary gifts of both a mother and a father in the lives of children," they said.
After the Supreme Court on Monday declined to review rulings overturning five states' bans on same-sex marriage, several U.S. bishops criticized the court's inaction and reiterated that according to church teaching, traditional marriage is a union between one man and one woman.
Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley said the court's failure to review the Circuit Court decisions was "deeply disappointing."