Dozens Battle Cold Outside Supreme Court For Chance To Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases

Mar 25, 2013
Originally published on March 27, 2013 5:59 pm
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For the lucky few who do get a seat in the court tomorrow, they'll be able to watch arguments about California's ban on same-sex marriage known as Proposition 8. On Wednesday, the subject is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. These are both historic cases. Even so, it's cold out there for all those people lined up outside. So what makes braving the wintery weather worth it?

NPR's Ailsa Chang spent some time today outside the Supreme Court.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: For Cordell Asbensun, it wasn't so much the cold that woke him up this morning on the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court, it was the weight of the snow on his face. He was actually feeling kind of cozy last night with a makeshift tent of tarps overhead and a swimming pool wrapped for a mattress underneath.

CORDELL ASBENSUN: Actually, I would have slept completely soundly through the night had there not been so many inches of snow toppled on top of us that the tarps were pushing up against me so hard that you could feel the pressure of the snow from the outside.

CHANG: Asbensun grew up in Sacramento, California and describes himself as a conservative Christian. He saw the uproar caused by Proposition 8 while he was growing up and he fervently agrees with the law and that's why he's here, to witness. But late at night, shivering next to a lot of people who don't agree with him, Asbensun says there's been a peacefulness to the gathering.

ASBENSUN: You looked up and the stars were there. People were kind of whispering to themselves like, are you comfortable? Here, get under this sleeping - you know, and it just felt like a normal campout.

CHANG: Except at this campout, you have to take numbers. Asbensun says, right now, he's number 30 in line. The man who's number one in line has been here since last Thursday afternoon, but he wouldn't talk to reporters. Then, there's 15-year-old Fabby Garcia. She just got here early this morning, but she isn't sure how much longer she's going to last. You're wearing seven pairs of pants?

FABBY GARCIA: Yes. And then like four layers of, like, tops, including a rain jacket, a jacket, two pairs of socks and rain boots and it's still freezing cold.

CHANG: Part of the survival strategy is teamwork. If you're lucky, you have people bringing you hot food. In some cases, people in line are teaming up to save each other's places for bathroom runs or trips to local hardware stores for more cold-weather provisions.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: OK, he asked us to pick up a tarp for him.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Oh, wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: They came in these - I don't know what size. This is an 8X10.

CHANG: People say they're here because it's historic, because they want to see the facial expressions of the justices when they ask questions. Most say that dealing with the cold is part of their commitment to the cause, whichever side they're on. But for Taylor Everdeen, being here is about money. She's getting paid $1,000 to hold the place for a, quote, "friend." She says she doesn't have a stake in the case and has just been enjoying bonding with the rest of the sidewalk crew.

TAYLOR EVERDEEN: Yeah, we've played some cards with people and talked with people. We're all kind of out here for the long haul. So...

CHANG: So it's supposed to rain tonight. Maybe Everdeen should consider upping her price. Ailsa Chang, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.