Admiration, Education & Frustration: Reasons for Visiting Scalia Vary

Justice Antonin Scalia, who died unexpectedly Feb. 13, lies in repose at the U.S. Supreme Court today, where he served for nearly three decades.

After a brief ceremony for the remaining justices and Scalia’s family, the Great Hall was opened to the public.

Even though it was near freezing, by midday the line stretched from First Street—which separates the high court from the Capitol—to Second Street.

The people waiting in line varied: some black, some white; some women, some men; some old, some young.

And the reasons they were there varied too.

Veronique and Frederick—who were in the middle of the line and had been there about 45 minutes—brought their two school-age children.

It’s a chance for the kids to be part of history, they said.

The French-Canadians, who are American citizens, said they work hard to try to teach their children about the branches of government. This is a great way to solidify the court in their memories, they said.

For the parents, it was a way for them to “take a pause” and recognize Scalia’s contribution. Even though they didn’t always agree with him, they said he was a “giant of the law.”

Near the front of the line, Wendell and Carolyn—who had been waiting for more than an hour—echoed that sentiment.

Carolyn said they admired Scalia for his “defense of the Constitution.”

They were glad to see so many people waiting to see the justice. He deserves our respect, Carolyn said.

But further back in the line, Emma and Melissa—in line just a few minutes—were there for more “irreverent” reasons.

Melissa said she was dared to go see Scalia and tell him his legacy was “argle-bargle”—a reference to Scalia’s dissenting opinion in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Emma recognized that this was a historic moment. But she said it had become kind of a spectacle.

She pointed to a man on a bicycle holding two megaphones and yelling nonsensically.

It doesn’t have the air of somberness I thought it would, Emma said.

Scalia Line 1

Scalia Line 2

Scalia Line 3