MY HOBBY LOBBY DAY AT SCOTUS: INSIDE & OUT

Gloomy. Cold. And wind that took your breath away.

But not even a springtime snowfall kept a crowd from gathering before the U.S. Supreme Court in anticipation of arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.

Two hours before the arguments were set to begin, the line for a 3-5 minute glimpse inside the courtroom wrapped around the block.

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And as snow piled on these spectators outside, amicus briefs piled up inside.

One poor clerk came into the courtroom before arguments, loaded with two tall stacks of green amicus briefs. With a loud "thud," the briefs landed in front of the seat that would later be occupied by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Without hope, I wondered if the notoriously tight-lipped Thomas had prepared a lot of questions for the day's arguments. (Spoiler: He hadn't.)

Back outside, a moderate pack of protesters had assembled out front.

The two cases examine whether for-profit corporations enjoy the First Amendment protection of free religion, and whether they can seek an exemption from the Affordable Care Act's requirement to provide access to certain kinds of birth control.

So it was no surprise that many were preaching the gospel of unshackled religious freedom…

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And others the liberating message of free contraception for all…

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And at least one small group took on the health care law itself.

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But during oral arguments, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. wasn't having any of that.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked whether the court should examine the constitutionality of the underlying law.

"Well, I think it has been examined, Your Honor, is my recollection," Verrilli responded. (We checked. He was right! You may recall some goings on at the court involving a different mandate exactly two years ago.)

As I scurried out of the courthouse to try to make my deadline, I noticed that not only had more snow accumulated, but also more protesters.

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Moving passed the frozen crowd, I heard one women yelling that she was giving away sweatshirts made by her daughter "with crafts from our local Hobby Lobby store!"

The cheers quickly evaporated as the homemade goodies—and any chance of getting warmer—quickly ran out.