WASHINGTON -- Union members waved signs defending the right to health care.
Religious leaders, some grasping rosaries, railed against mandatory coverage of contraceptives. The uninsured, desperate for coverage, and the insured, angry that their tax dollars would pay for others' care, shouted slogans. Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum showed up and used the opportunity to attack rival Mitt Romney.
As the high court's nine justices convened Monday for arguments on the constitutionality of the national health care law, more than 200 supporters and opponents of the law -- along with the merely curious -- gathered in the plaza outside the court building.
Westhampton native Cate Hulme, who was marching in front of the building in favor of the law, said she'd "been denied health insurance because I have a pre-existing condition," a congenital heart murmur. Hulme, 26, said she is covered under a New York State law that allows parents to keep their young adult children on their health plans through age 29.
"But not every state has that and, if the law is stopped, more young people will be denied insurance," said Hulme, who is in Washington for an internship with Families USA, an activist group that supports the health care law.
Atlantan Jenny Beth Martin, 41, said no one should be required to accept or provide health insurance. She said she and her husband went into bankruptcy three years ago -- they lost their business, house and their health insurance -- but said they were able to strike a deal with doctors, enabling them to manage without coverage. Martin is a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, which provides her with health coverage.
"When you don't have it, you can survive," Martin said. "The doctors work with you. . . . It's basically about our way of life. If this goes into effect, the government will be in control of our lives."
Outside the court, people held banners and wore T-shirts adorned with myriad slogans: "Protect my Health Care. Protect the Law," "Death is Not an Option," "Don't Tread on Me" and "We Love the Constitution."
Some said they spent several days and nights holding their places in line to get tickets to the oral arguments -- and sharing the experience of being awakened at 5 a.m. Monday by the sprinkler system.
Theresa BrownGold, 57, a Pennsylvania artist, acknowledged that when she ran a restaurant, she hired part-time workers to avoid paying benefits, but said, "that's no way to run a country."
Santorum, appearing at about noon just after the court ended the first of three days of arguments, slammed Romney as the "worst" person to fight against "Obamacare." As Massachusetts governor, Romney signed a law requiring residents obtain health insurance.