Worlds apart on Obamacare, next to each other in Supreme Court line

at 04:48 PM ET, 03/26/2012

Protesters gathered at the Supreme Court on Monday, as the justices opened three days of oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act. (Sarah Kliff | Washington Post)
Laura Breneman and Carol Anderson have a couple of things in common. Both are women in their early 50s who feel passionately about the Affordable Care Act. Both slept on the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on the law, which opened Monday. But that’s probably where the similarities end: While Breneman strongly supports the law, Anderson absolutely opposes it.

Breneman and Anderson held spots 20 and 21 in line to be in the courtroom for oral arguments in the case at the Supreme Court. For about 36 hours, the opponents sat next to each other, waiting for the court to open its doors.

“In general, the idea here is to respect everyone’s opinions, and just thank God that we live in a country where all opinions can be aired openly and we can have public discourse,” Breneman said. She’s a nurse from Tallahassee who has worked in emergency rooms, and supports the Affordable Care Act because of the issues she’s seen with low-income individuals’ access to health care.

“I’ve never seen the Supreme Court in action and I’m pretty passionate about the Affordable Care Act and improving access to care,” she said. “It just would be an opportunity to see history that I hope goes the way it should.”

Carol Anderson (left) and Laura Breneman camped out overnight to hear the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on health reform. (Sarah Kliff | Washington Post)
Anderson, who opposes the law, showed up on Saturday. “I didn’t realize the importance of this until I came here,” she said. “I had been volunteering at the Cherry Blossom festival but missed the Smithsonian stop because of all the construction. So I went to South Capitol, rounded the corner here, and saw there were only a handful of people.”

In fact, Anderson was one of the few waiting in line who personally opposes the law (most of the waiters are being paid to hold spots for others, and the handful of others mostly support the law). Anderson, a Catholic, explained that it mostly has to do with the law’s mandate that insurance plans cover contraception without a copay.

“I will not comply with the Obamacare law as it is,” Anderson said. “I’m going to stand up with my Bishops . . .and we will resist this law. We will probably kneel on the ground and prayer, and not do anything against the law.”

But while Breneman and Anderson have major disagreements about “Obamacare,” activists on both sides agree that the environment at the Court’s doorstep has been relatively civil.

Supporters of the health reform law dominated rallies outside the Supreme Court early Monday, with dozens holding blue signs that said “People of faith for health care.” A handful of the law’s opponents arrived a little later. Both sides chanted “What do we want?” One side responded with “Obamacare!” The other shouted “Repeal!”

When health reform supporters began singing “America the Beautiful,” the law’s opponents joined in. The two sides broke into their separate chants when the song concluded.

For the weekend, at least, the Supreme Court’s waiting rules—no tents and no camping—also forced Breneman and Anderson to depend on each other: both held the other woman’s spot when one of them left to use the bathroom or do a media interview. The two women will likely never see eye-to-eye on the Affordable Care Act but, for 36 hours, they seemed to have worked out a peaceful waiting strategy.

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