Take a brief snapshot tour of American history in your mind. Picture those photos of unemployed Depression-era men lining up for free soup. Sanitation workers in Memphis holding signs reading "I am a man," all in a line. Gay couples lined up at the justice of the peace waiting for their marriage licenses.
There's another line that's been formed since friday in Washington outside the Supreme Court. Two historic cases on gay marriage Tuesday and Wednesday, and, as you'd guess, the public wants in. There are about 50 seats up for grabs, available to the public on a first-come first-served basis. So people, naturally, are lining up.
Standing in line seems a fair, democratic, American way to get the hottest ticket in America on Tuesday.
But it turns out there are many in line who might not really care what's going on inside. Why? Because they are line sitters — paid by someone with deep enough pockets to get someone to save them a place. They're not breaking any laws, but in the spirit of us all having equal access to the country's most important institutions, is it right that these seats which are reserved for the public are available to the highest bidder?
Ted Frank is a lawyer, and founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness. He's in Washington, D.C.