The New York Times reports:
The justices were interested in the lawyers’ views about where his or her argument got fuzzy and made their questions more difficult by asking the lawyers to grapple each other’s contentions. Hovering over the oral arguments were briefs from friends of the court.Phelps and his congregation, made up almost entirely of members of his extended family, support themselves and their church by suing and winning cases like this.
Walter Dellinger, a former acting solicitor general, sided with the Snyders for Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and many others in Congress. They argue that Congress and 46 states have passed laws limiting protests at funerals and, implicitly, that the support for the family was a heartfelt exception to the breakdown in Washington. Nadine Strossen, a former leader of the American Civil Liberties Union, pointed out the chilling consequences for protest-filled university campuses if the church’s position is not upheld.
One friend of the court brief called the protesters’ message “uncommonly contemptible.” True, but it is in the interest of the nation that strong language about large issues be protected, even when it is hard to do so.