Tuesday begins an historic two days at the U.S. Supreme Court, as the justices take up the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. Dozens have been lined up since last week, braving the snow and rain, for a chance to sit in that courtroom and witness history. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report.
WASHINGTON -- Frank Colasonti and his partner Jim traveled from Michigan to Washington, D.C. to spend their 25th anniversary camping outside a rainy U.S. Supreme Court.
"We were hoping it'd be warm, with the cherry blossoms out, and it'd be nice and dry," Colasonti said.
They got in line at about five o'clock Monday morning and are keeping their fingers crossed that they score one of the roughly 50 public seats available inside the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning.
For a committed couple that has long dreamed of getting legally married, the historic cases before the court are emotional ones that they never thought they'd witness.
"Never imagined it. I figured I'd never see it in my lifetime," Colasonti said.
People from both sides of the issue began lining up and peacefully braving the elements late last week. For many, the trip was personal.
"In America, essentially I'm a second-class citizen and that's not OK," said a supporter of same-sex marriage.
For some, it was just a chance to make money by waiting in line for someone else.
It is not a surprise that the cases have attracted such attention and crowds. Both have the potential to fundamentally expand the rights of gay and lesbian couples.
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in nine states, including New York, and the District of Columbia.
The first case deals with the constitutionality of California's gay marriage ban, known as Proposition 8.
The other, the Defense of Marriage Act, is a federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
The case against DOMA was brought by Edith "Edie" Windsor, an 83-year-old New Yorker who says she was hurt financially because the federal government did not recognize her marriage to Thea Spyer.
When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor was forced to pay more than $363,000 in federal estate taxes on property she inherited from her wife.
Windsor says it is something a surviving heterosexual spouse would not have to deal with.
Recent polls show a seismic shift in support of gay marriage, but some opponents believe the public opinion surveys are not telling the whole story.
"I think there are actually more of us out there than people think, but I think sometimes people get so afraid of hurting people's feelings or offending people that we don't come out and say it," said Nicole Hudgens, an opponent of same-sex marriage.
Colasanti, however, thinks the tide is changing, so much so that he hopes he can get married in any state when the justices issue their opinion later this year.
Meanwhile, NYC Pride announced Monday that Edith Windsor would also be one of three grand marshals leading the 44th annual NYC LGBT Pride March down Fifth Avenue on June 30.
The other two grand marshals will be entertainer Harry Belafonte, a long-time civil rights and universal equality advocate, and Earl Fowlke, the president of the Center for Black Equity.