In a historic ruling, the Supreme Court today extended federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and separately cleared the way for gay marriage in California by declining to rule on the state’s Proposition 8. A massive crowd, braving heat and spotty cellphone reception, had amassed outside of the court to await the decisions, and when they arrived, the gathering erupted into cheers, chants, and song. Alan Friedman, from Rockville, was quick to quote the Velvet Underground. “No kinds of love are better than others,” he said.

Karen Serio, of Laurel, married her wife Ann Strangman last month, and both wore matching shirts in support of marriage equality. “It’s awesome. Now we can be recognized by the federal government as well as the state government,” Serio said. Catherine Tuerk, a former president of D.C.’s Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays chapter, said she never thought the fight for marriage equality would pick up momentum so quickly, comparing it to a genie let out of its bottle. “We can’t win everything, but we will win everything soon,” she said.

Voices of protest were minimal and removed from the main action. Ronald Brock, holding up an elaborate “Repent or Perish” sign across the street from the courthouse, said he showed up to witness “God’s moral truth.” Brock said before the rulings that he wasn’t optimistic due to “the track record of insanity going on in this nation…We can no longer distinguish right from wrong.” When confronted by a man who asked him about a Bible passage about selling daughters into slavery, Brock retorted, “When you use your credit card aren’t you selling yourself into slavery?” Brock said he doesn’t enter into “nonsense conversations.” But when all was said and done, and the Supreme Court justices brought the country one step closer to equal marriage rights, Brock summed up his thoughts in one word: “Repent.”

Judging by the array of signs, there were Catholics, Mormons, and Republicans in the crowd voicing their support for the ruling. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, wearing matching red shirts, sang the National Anthem. The first line of the anthem is a question, not an answer, said Charles Butler, a founding member of the chorus. “We will always question the next generation.”

Photos by Dan Singer