By Salimah Ebrahim
WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) - In sweltering Washington heat, more than 1,000 people from across the United States and around the world gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to await the court's decision on President Barack Obama's contested healthcare law.
The historic day proved a magnet not only for the media throngs but for belly-dancing protesters, flag-waving, bullhorn-wielding partisans on all sides and the now omni-present Tea Party sentinel in full Revolutionary War uniform.
The mood outside the court, which is across the street from the domed U.S. Capitol, was divided like the justices themselves, who ruled the health care law constitutional.
A pregnant Michelle Junessa, her husband Gabriel - a salesman from New Orleans - and their 3-year-old son, Austin, booked their flights to Washington two days ago hoping to witness a striking down of the entire law.
"We feel strongly about Obamacare not being put into place ... it's nerve racking," she said. "It needs to go, it needs to be reworked. It was too much too fast, shoving it down our throats."
A few feet away, Liz and Stan Lehman from Arkansas, who work as a nurse and medical imager respectively, sat watching the spectacle, taking in the competing chants of the pro- and anti-healthcare camps.
The Lehman's admitted they were uncomfortable with the law's individual mandate requiring Americans to buy health coverage or pay a penalty. However, they support the rest of the law - especially the provision protecting people with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage.
Stan Lehman said being there reminded him of key moments during the U.S. civil rights movement a half century ago. "It's a biggie," he said as he looked toward the white marble court building.
Earlier, a gathering of young pro-Obama supporters had come out in full force toting signs reading: "I love Obama-care."
In their midst was Kristan Hawkins, the executive director of Student's for Life America, an anti-abortion organization campaigning against the healthcare law. Hawkins, tried to counter the group's cheers, speaking intermittently into a megaphone.
"We have our protests actually down the street. I just chose to step here in the middle," she said, citing long-wait times for medical treatment in countries with universal healthcare, like Canada and Britain, as a main reason for her opposition to the law.
CROWD REACTS AS AMBULANCE ARRIVES
A few soft strains of people singing "God Bless America" filtered through the back of the crowd as it quieted down in anticipation of the court's ruling.
The decision, released just after 10 a.m. EDT, was greeted initially by a roar of approval and cheering from those in support. That was soon followed by a stereo blasting Obama's signature 2008 campaign song - Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed Delivered, I'm Yours".
Minutes later the police pushed the crowd back even further to make way for an ambulance that had just arrived. As a stretcher was pulled out, an officer told Reuters: "A lady has just had a heart attack. We've had a few people faint."
The rest of the morning belonged to the sounds of a rally, organized on the court steps by the conservative Tea Party movement and attended by Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
The rally's chants of "November is coming!" and "We will repeal!" referred to the group's next hope: that presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney will be elected in the November election and will work to fulfill his pledge to repeal the law.
INSIDE COURTROOM: GLOBAL VOICES
Inside the Supreme Court, tourists wearing Hawaiian shirts, shorts and baseball caps streamed past groups of men and women in dark suits clutching thick white copies of the decision.
At the entrance to the courtroom, where the nine justices empty chairs loomed in the background, two young women in hijabs politely asked a bystander to take their photo.
Marwa Jamal and Ghofran Mansoub were visiting from Yemen - a country caught in the throes of the Arab Spring; its people struggling for their own rights.
Both women, informed by their own experiences, were struck by the order and civility of the scene outside the court.
"Today is a historical day. We saw the demonstrations and good for the American people today. Each people try fight for their rights and ask for their rights in their own way, peacefully," Jamal said. "We are going to send these photos home and say where we were when this decision happened."