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President Obama Announces Support for Gay Marriage; Inside the John Edwards Trial; Zuckerberg in Hot Water over Hoodie; Politics of Gay Marriage

Aired May 9, 2012 - 14:57   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: There has been pressure mounting for President Obama to clarify his stance on gay marriage. He's said his stance is evolving. What does that mean? We don't know.

But now we're learning because of this ABC interview that is happening this afternoon, the president will be pressed on this specific issue. As soon as we hear his answer, we'll bring that to you.

In the meantime, I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, tell me what we know about this interview and when we should get some indication as to what the president says.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Well, we now know what the president has told ABC News, Brooke. The president now says he believes that same-sex marriage should be legal.

He says his position has evolved and he's going forward with that position. In recent days, his education secretary said he supports same-sex marriage, Arnie Duncan.

The vice president of the United States last Sunday basically said the same thing. And today in this new interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News, the president according to ABC News says same-sex marriage should be legal, that the president's position has evolved.

Obviously, a very historic moment in the United States, first time ever that an American president has come out in favor of same-sex marriage. And it's going to have significant ramifications in the gay community, obviously, the heterosexual community for all Americans.

It's also going to have major political ramifications in this election season, less than six months to go before the presidential election. It's obvious that the president wanted to clarify this once and for all.

In the after math of all of the uproar that developed on Sunday since Joe Biden said on "Meet The Press" he supports same-sex marriage. And then Arnie Duncan on Monday, the education secretary followed up, pointing out that he, too, supports same-sex marriage. It's obviously a huge deal that we're witnessing right now -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Wolf, thank you. Obviously as soon as we get some of that sound making this historic statement, now the president is saying same-sex marriage should be legal.

We have Gloria Borger standing by and our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. Gloria, my question to you before we get into the risks and rewards of coming out with this finally publicly once and for all, what about the timing?

Wolf mentioned we did hear from Vice President Joe Biden very clearly, coming out supporting gay marriage. But why today? Because I also understand that this particular interview, as Wolf mentioned, with Robin Roberts of ABC News, this thing was booked Tuesday afternoon. Pretty quick, the White House wanted to sit him down.


Well, first of all, I think you would have to say that the president was under some pressure, not only given the vice president's statements, but also the fact that, in North Carolina, you had a vote last night which rejected same-sex marriage.

And I think that the president felt at a certain point -- now, I can't speak for him, but...

BALDWIN: Of course.

BORGER: ... that once you're under pressure, there are only so many choices left for you. And it's pretty clear the way the president was heading on this.

They have always said, look, we're the ones who got rid of don't ask, don't tell. The Justice Department no longer defends the Defense of Marriage Act. So you knew what direction the president was heading.

I think there were conversations about whether this would be good politically or not good politically for the president because this could rally Mitt Romney's conservative base. This could hurt the president with some voters in battleground states, like Ohio and Iowa, for example.

But in the end, the president, I think, would probably feel, look, he had no choice but to come out and state a position. Saying you're evolving on something is not a good thing to say during a presidential campaign.

BALDWIN: Was a little -- a little too nebulous, little too nebulous.

BORGER: Right. Exactly.

BALDWIN: Gloria, stand by, because from what I understand, we're actually now getting some of the statements that have now come out because of this ABC News interview.

Wolf Blitzer, back to you. Wolf, tell me what is he saying.

BLITZER: Well, the president is saying bluntly this, and I will read it to you and our viewers, Brooke.

He says in this interview with ABC's Robin Roberts: "I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are incredibly committed -- in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained even now that don't ask, don't tell is gone because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point" -- and here's what the president says -- "I have just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

That's an excerpt that ABC News has released. He says this is a personal position. "It's interesting," the president went on to say. "Some of this is also generational. You know, when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to College Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same-sex equality or, you know, believe in equality, they are much more comfortable with it.

"You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times when Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we're talking about their friends and their parents. And Malia and Sasha, it wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents should be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them. And, frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective."

So you get the point.


BLITZER: The president of the United States obviously in a dramatic fashion in this interview wanted to clarify once and for all that his position has evolved, no more evolving. He supports same-sex marriage and he's making that clear right now.


BLITZER: And, as you know, Brooke...


BALDWIN: We now have the video. We now have the video, Wolf.


BALDWIN: Forgive me for interrupting. Let's just roll it. Here's the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to tell you, as I said, I have been going through an evolution on this issue. I have always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. And that's why, in addition to everything we have done in this administration, rolling back don't ask, don't tell, so that outstanding Americans can serve our country.

Whether it is no longer defending the Defense Against (sic) Marriage Act, which tried to federalize what has historically been state law, I've stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community.

And I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient, that that was something that would give people hospital visitation rights and other elements that that we take for granted.

And I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, you know, the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.

But I have to tell you that, over the course of several years, as I talk to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf, and yet feel constrained even now that don't ask, don't tell is gone, because they're not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point, I've just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.


BALDWIN: Should be able to affirm that same-sex marriage -- same-sex couples should be able to get married, President Obama making an historic statement here today with respect to same-sex marriage.

We're talking about this news here with a number of folks in Washington, D.C.

I want to bring in John King, because, John King, as we listen to this and we sort of let that statement reverberate, this is an election year. Talk to me about the timing of this. Obviously, this is great news for folks who support gay marriage. But certainly you talk about those independent voters who are so, so key come November, and obviously folks on Mitt Romney's team, how does this play with them?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a gamble for the president. And we should say up front it's a bold, personal choice for the president to decide to do this publicly.

You used the word as you brought me into the conversation historic. If you go back and show those pictures from ABC News just a moment ago, not only is this a political leader making this statement, Brooke. It's the president of the United States. It's the first president of the United States -- he's sitting in the White House, those two flags over his shoulder, the seal of the United States of America and the American flag -- this is the first American president sitting in the White House to say, I think same-sex couples should be able to marry, not just have legal unions, but able to marry.

And the president acknowledged the use of the term marriage. That's one of the reasons he's been hung up on this. You hear him talking about his daughters. You hear him talking about young Americans when he goes to college campuses. The president knows pretty well that young Americans are with him on this issue.

They're ahead of him on this issue even. They have pressured him. Gay Americans have supported him, the gay and lesbian community which is supporting him financially and otherwise, politically supports him. The question is, how does it play out in what we know is a very, very close, competitive election?

And even the president's own political team will tell you, there are risks here. Number one, this will energize evangelical Christians who might have some doubts about Mitt Romney. They have just seen the president of the United States sitting in the White House endorsing something they very, very much oppose on moral and religious grounds.

So this will help Mitt Romney energize his base. The question is, does it cost the president? If you get addition from young voters, addition from gay and lesbians who might have been disappointed and stayed home if the president didn't go this far, if you get that addition on the Democratic side, do you also get subtraction?

Are there conservative Democrats who say, sorry, Mr. President, I'm not with you on this one? Critically to me, Brooke, in this calculation, African-Americans and Latinos. Many Latinos who are Catholics. They go to Catholic Church, where their priest tells them every Sunday homosexuality isn't just wrong, it's evil. That's what their priest tells them. It's evil.

A lot of African-American preachers in the Southern Baptist -- Southern churches across this country, but particularly in Virginia, North Carolina, states the president carried last time, say the same thing.


KING: And this is a -- this is a big risk by this president. And give me him credit for taking the risk. Many politicians duck from risks, but what we will watch play out now in the weeks and months ahead is how it works on turnout and the addition and subtraction, which politics in the end is about math.

BALDWIN: I want to get back to you, John King, because I have more questions.

But I do want to go straight to the White House to Jessica Yellin, because, Jessica, I'm just curious, what kind of backstory do we have on this particularly interview? I was mentioning to Wolf I read that this thing was put together, what, yesterday, yesterday afternoon, that they flew Robin Roberts up to Washington and then back to New York -- or they will be. Tell me what you know about how this whole thing came together.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I know that this wasn't the White House's plan to roll that -- this out this week.

The president's campaign was planning to unveil their first positive ad campaign this week and start making their case for reelection. He was unveiling the congressional to-do list, which was supposed to be focused on pressing Congress on some of their major initiatives that the campaign wanted to focus on.

And then because of the vice president's comments, because of Arne Duncan, the education secretary's comment, it sort of forced the president's hand. And as you say, they put together an interview with Robin Roberts, as we understand it from sources, yesterday.

And she came up to do that interview quickly today. I understand that on ABC, while we have been on, Robin Roberts reported that she pressed the president on whether he was angry with the vice president and with Arne Duncan because of their comments. And the president laughed it off, saying no.

You know, from a number of people I have spoken with outside the White House, activists on this issue, Brooke, it was their sense that they believed the president, the White House was going to come to this position before the election. I don't know if that is true, but it was their view that he was.

This simply forced it to happen sooner and not on a time frame of their own choosing. And, you know, it does -- it is a politically risky move and coming a day after the North Carolina ballot initiative and all these risks that John has laid out.


YELLIN: But I would underscore again, and the president made that point clear in this interview, that they see it also as motivating the youth vote. This is a big issue for young voters. And I would not underestimate how they will play that in this campaign.

BALDWIN: Back to, though, your point -- and that is a great point, that the youth vote, we have talked to so much, that is such a key voting bloc. It was a key voting bloc for him in 2008 and again it will be in 2012.

This wasn't on the books for the president this week. You say he laughed off the comments about whether or not the vice president making a very clear stance and also Arne Duncan, the secretary of education. Was there any one particular thing, though, Jessica -- and perhaps we will never know, but that one catalyst that said, all right, Mr. President, today is the day we do this?

YELLIN: I have not had a chance to report that out. I have been standing out here, Brooke. I will try to find out for you.

But it's not really hard to deduce that this was coming to a critical head. There was no way he could walk away from addressing this sooner, rather than later. We were constantly -- we were pressing them in the briefing room. The next time he held a press availability, we were going to ask him, have you evolved yet?

He was not going to be able to duck this question any further. So either he was going to have to face it at his next press conference or the next time he went to reporters, or he could arrange for an interview to sit down and address it in a setting of his choosing.

In those sorts of instances, it's usually a White House's choice to pick a setting of their own choosing, rather than wait for a press conference. And so it seems that they decided to do it today. And then on Monday, I would point out, he's going to have a fund-raiser with Ricky Martin in New York. And there will be a lot of LGBT donors there.

And he's going to be sharing a stage at a commencement, at a graduation ceremony with one of the leaders of the freedom to marry movement. So it seems wise to get ahead of that and do it this week, rather than when he's with a lot of gay and lesbian donors next week.


BALDWIN: Sure, do it today.

Jessica Yellin, thank you so much.

We're going to stay on this breaking, historic news now. We're hearing that the president has officially finished his evolution when it comes to gay marriage and saying, yes, indeed, he does believe that gay men and women should be able to be legally married.

We're going to come back after the break and we're going to get reaction from the Human Rights Campaign, reaction from the LGBT community on this stunning news today.


BALDWIN: Breaking news here on this Wednesday: President Obama now coming forward and supporting gay marriage.

I want to quote him, as he just spoke to ABC News here.

He said -- quote -- "At a certain point, I have just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

This coming down just a little while ago.

I want to bring in Michael Cole-Schwartz. He is with Human Rights Campaign.

And, Michael, your reaction? MICHAEL COLE-SCHWARTZ, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Oh, it's a tremendous day.

We are so glad that the president has come out in full support of marriage equality, recognizing that gay and lesbian couples are just as committed, just as loving and need all of the protections that marriage affords.

BALDWIN: Tell me just a little bit about the Human Rights Campaign. It is your job. You spend -- you and all your colleagues, this is your living, lobbying the federal government to ultimately make sure that the LGBT community has -- has equal rights, can get married.

COLE-SCHWARTZ: That's right.

We're the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization. And the president has had a tremendous record thus far on treating -- on expanding opportunities and protections for our community, from the end of don't ask, don't tell and hospital visitation regulations and the hate crimes law.

And now we're elated to see him evolve, as many Americans have evolved, to the position of supporting full equality through marriage.

BALDWIN: I was talking to someone just yesterday out of North Carolina about Amendment 1, which was on the ballot there, which ultimately passed.

So now that this -- it was this referendum that now officially bans gay marriage constitutionally and also domestic partnership, et cetera. And I asked this person, are you frustrated that so far the president has been fairly nebulous in this evolving stance?

How frustrating has that been for you? And do all your frustrations just go away now that we hear what he said this afternoon?

COLE-SCHWARTZ: Well, I think the community has certainly longed to hear this from the president, you know, given that he has been such an ally and such a friend to our community.

But I think that the evolution that he articulated today and has in the past is reflective of what a lot of Americans are going through. They have -- you know, through conversations and through experiences with their gay neighbors and friends and family members might have had some misconceptions or weren't quite there yet on the marriage issue.

But those conversations really have propelled this issue forward. And the president is representative of where the country is going. And that's into an inclusive and welcoming place for all couples.

BALDWIN: Michael Cole-Schwartz, I appreciate you calling in. Thank you so much.



BALDWIN: I want to bring in -- thank you.

I want to bring in Gloria Borger, who has been standing by with us in Washington.

And, Gloria, let's just take a look here, because let's -- guys, just let's polls, because we're going to look at this Gallup poll. And so here's what we have asked. This is between May 3 and 6. The question was, should same-sex marriages be recognized as legal? It's pretty close; 50 percent say yes; 48...

BORGER: It's very close.

BALDWIN: Yes. It's just two percentage points differential.

BORGER: You know, 15 years ago, I think about 25 percent of Americans thought that same-sex marriages should be legal.

So you see the American public has, not to overuse the word, evolved on the issue, and just as the president has said that he's evolved. And, politically, another interesting thing, Brooke, is that those independent voters we talk about as being so important, they have also evolved on this issue...


BORGER: ... with a majority of them saying that they approve same-sex marriage.

Look at that, 57 percent to 40. Obviously, Republicans are flipped on that, very much overwhelmingly opposed, and Democrats overwhelmingly for. And so it's no surprise. Mitt Romney, who believes very strongly -- is against gay marriage, came out today and said that he will defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

And not only that, in separating himself from the president, he said he would fight for an amendment to the Constitution that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.

So you see how this is going to break down very clearly between Mitt Romney and President Obama.

BALDWIN: Yes, and I think, though -- I was talking to John King a moment ago. I think to John King's point, that this could really galvanize your evangelical Christians, who perhaps thought Mitt Romney was a little bit perhaps too moderate.


BALDWIN: And here you have President Obama coming out and now saying, yes, this should legal. So we will see both the costs and the reward. But here's my specific question for you, because the president said, when he gave this interview to ABC News, I'm looking down, because he said it's up to the states, it's up to the states here when it comes to gay marriage.

So, in terms of substance, what does that mean?

BORGER: Well, I mean, you have seen a majority of states have approved these anti-gay marriage amendments. I think there's less than a dozen states -- it may be as few as eight -- who have actually approved gay marriage.

And this is something now that's pending in the courts. We have the famous case of Proposition 8 that I have reported on that is pending in the courts, the California case on gay marriage. And so I think that you see that the states have been very, very slow to embrace this.

Public opinion is running -- is changing dramatically. And so you see the country is essentially moving pretty slowly in this direction. It's taken about 15 years, but I think it's evolving, for lack of a better word.

BALDWIN: It's evolving, but still, when you look at that poll, 50 percent vs. 48, it's not a massive differential.


BALDWIN: Let me just jump in and say, you know, we have been sort of wondering how this will play with Mitt Romney. Well, wonder no more.

We now have reaction from the former Massachusetts governor. We're going to give that you after this quick break.


BALDWIN: As we mentioned before the break, the president coming out now speaking to ABC News just this afternoon, telling Robin Roberts that he does believe in gay marriage now, that he has finished this evolution on his stance and he believes men should be able to marry men and women should be able to marry women.

I want to bring in Jim Acosta, though, as we are getting a little bit of reaction.

And to be totally clear, Jim Acosta, who, by the way, is in West Virginia, this sound we're about to hear from Mitt Romney, this is not in direct reaction to the president's interview moments ago. This is just on topic earlier today.


Well, yes, ever since Joe Biden brought up this subject...

BALDWIN: Yes. ACOSTA: ... or I guess he was asked about this subject on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, obviously this has been a headache for the White House. It's also been a subject out on the campaign trail.

Mitt Romney has been asked this question. He was asked by our Shawna Shepherd on a rope line earlier today, and he opted not to answer the question on the rope line. But in an interview with a local Denver affiliate, he did weigh in on the subject. Here's what he had to say.


QUESTION: Polls show most Coloradans support same-sex civil unions. And polls show most Americans by a narrow margin do too. Where do you stand and what do you think?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, when these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender. And I don't favor civil unions if they're identical to marriage other than by name.

My view is that domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights and the like are appropriate, but that the others are not.



ACOSTA: So there you go, Brooke. It could not be a more stark contrast between Mitt Romney and President Obama on this issue of gay marriage.

Essentially, Mitt Romney had to take this position during the Republican presidential process, or else he was going to have a tough time getting nominated by this party. As you might recall, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum were all accusing him of flip-flopping on this issue.

And Log Cabin Republicans, gay Republicans in Massachusetts will bring up the fact that during the 1994 Senate race between Mitt Romney and Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney was saying something very different on the issue of equal rights for gays and lesbians.

He was really positioning himself as a champion of that cause, somebody who would be more effective than Ted Kennedy when it came to that issue. He's obviously had an evolution, you might say, in the years that have passed. And taking us to now, he's obviously very much against same-sex marriage. And he made that pretty clear earlier today.

BALDWIN: OK, Jim Acosta, thank you so much. If you hear any more directly responding to the president's stance this afternoon, let us know.

Meantime, let's go back to Washington, host of "J.K. USA," John King.

And a couple of questions for you. I guess when I think about this big picture and you think general election, you think of these battleground states. I mentioned Amendment 1 yesterday, the referendum on the ballot which passed yesterday in North Carolina. President Obama won North Carolina in 2008.

How does this play in those key states come November?

KING: That is the great question, because you were just talking to Gloria about the polls. There's no question that nationally public opinion is moving toward supporting same-sex marriage.

But we decide presidential elections, Brooke, as you know, on a state-by-state basis. So it's a very interesting thing, as you say. There's the Gallup poll there; 50 percent nationally, so a bare majority, say yes. But look at that -- 48 percent no.

So what you have there is a still divided country. And so when you look at this state by state, already some Republicans, even the Log Cabin Republicans, who are saying, thank you, Mr. President, to a Democratic president, Log Cabin Republicans say thank you, sir, for finally doing this, they're saying it was cynical. Why didn't he say something before North Carolina voters went to the polls just yesterday?

A lot of people are going to be asking that question, Brooke. Why now? If the president was going to evolve, why didn't he evolve more quickly and do this before the middle of a very heated election year? A lot of people are going to ask that.

Now, and let's just give the president the benefit of the doubt, and say this has been tough personally, and so the election timing didn't matter. But Jeff Zeleny, the fine political reporter for "The New York Times," just sent out a tweet talking about how the Obama political team was divided on this issue, because they understand the risks, they understand the downside.

And they ultimately decided, Jeff reports, that he was hurting his brand by hedging, by equivocating, by making it murky about he felt, as someone who says he's willing to make the tough decisions, that he needed to make one here.

But one quick other point.


KING: You just showed the Gallup poll number there. I have been reading NBC/"Wall Street Journal" polls going back many years to look at this issue.

This is interesting. In March 2004, only 30 percent of Americans favored same-sex marriage. By October 2009, it was 41 percent. And in the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll on this question, it was 49 percent. The Gallup poll number was 50 percent, those numbers essentially the same when you take in the statistical errors of polling.

And so the country has evolved on this, from 30 percent in 2004 to roughly half, 49 or 50 percent, now. There's no question nationally the tide is moving.


BALDWIN: It's moving, but it's still not an overwhelming majority.

KING: It's not an overwhelming majority.

So, if you're the president of the United States, and you're trying to get to 270 electoral votes, you won Virginia and North Carolina and Indiana last time. There are a lot of people who are going to tell you that by supporting same-sex marriage in those states, hmm, you have just made it a lot harder, probably impossible to win Indiana, maybe much tougher definitely in North Carolina, an interesting question in Virginia, because the demographics of that state are changing.

You have rural conservatives and evangelicals who will say, no way, Mr. President. You have a lot of younger voters in Northern Virginia who will say, you know, amen, Mr. President.

So, this will be a fascinating question as we go forward. As you have a national conversation, it's very important, in the context of the election, to look at this state by state. What the president -- and, look, the Republicans have fought about this, too. What the president did today is essentially adopt the Dick Cheney position, that it should be up to states. If they want to do it, they should --


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: (INAUDIBLE) with that. So how does that work, though? If you're sitting in, say, X state and you hear the president saying, well, OK, I'm for gay marriage but it's up to the states to decide. What does that mean? How does that work?

KING: Well, it means that he has now said that he personally favors it, and he's putting not only Barack Obama's stamp of approval on this, he's putting the current incumbent President of the United States. And that's what you see all of the statements coming out from the gay rights organizations, Brooke, are talking about the history of this, that a sitting President of the United States.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York just said that anytime a president backs a major advancement in civil rights, that advancement ultimately succeeds, Mayor Bloomberg saying in his view this will ultimately advance the cause of same-sex marriage.

But, you know, the president is not saying we should have a constitutional amendment or national legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. He's saying that marriage as it traditionally has been is an issue left to the states. And we've seen this fight, as Gloria just noted, there are some states that allow marriage, same-sex marriage.

There are some states that allow civil unions with most of the benefits of marriage, just not that name. And there are a number of states that have constitutional amendments or legislation that ban same-sex marriage. The president has just added his voice to a debate that is going to not only continue but because the president is now front and center, Brooke, intensify.

BALDWIN: Yes. John King, thank you. You saw the banner. President Obama now supports same-sex marriage. What was the context of that quote? What was that conversation? We're going to replay the president's interview with ABC News for you on the other side of the break.

We're also going to get more reaction and speak with an openly gay American. See how this is resonating in the LGBT community.


BALDWIN: Breaking news, historic news here on this Wednesday. The President of the United States now coming forward and saying he supports equal rights when it comes to marriage. He spoke with ABC News just a little while ago. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to tell you, as I said, I've been going through an evolution on this issue. I've always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally.

And that's why, in addition to everything we've done in this administration, rolling back "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" so that, you know, outstanding Americans can serve our country, whether it's no longer defending the Defense Against Marriage Act, which tried to federalize what has historically been state law, I've stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community.

And I had hesitated on gay marriage, in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient, that that was something that would give people hospital visitation rights and other elements that we take for granted.

And I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.

But I have to tell you that over the course of several years, as I talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff, who are incredibly committed in monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or Marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" is gone, because they're not able to commit themselves in a marriage; at a certain point, I've just concluded that, for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.


BALDWIN: I want to bring in an openly gay American, L.Z. Granderson. He's also a CNN contributor. And L.Z., you just heard that sound. What was your first reaction?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: My first reaction was welcome to the right side of history, Mr. President.

He's been straddling the fence for a number of years and it's just nice to finally see him say those words, you know, just to have the President of the United States openly say that I do not believe these citizens are second class citizens. I believe they have the same entitlements as everyone else in the United States. It is a very, very wonderful thing to hear. And the work begins.

BALDWIN: When you say welcome to this side of history, is there a part of you that's still -- I don't know what the world would be -- frustrated that it took him this time to -- to use his word -- "evolve"?

GRANDERSON: You know, I'm more frustrated over the fact that we have seen this script over and over again in this country, from women's rights to civil rights and the civil rights movement. We've had so many instances, you know.

The rights for people with special needs to be able to work. I mean, we keep going through the same conversation over and over again, where we're judging people based on what they are, not who they are. And so the frustration for me is that we're still having this conversation.

BALDWIN: L. Z. Granderson, I thank you for calling in.

I do want to let all of you know watching that we are getting more details when it comes to the context of this decision that the president made. He mentioned how, you know, he thinks of colleagues he works with, thinks of his family, thinks also of men and women in uniform who are fighting for our rights, yet they still do not have the same rights back here at home.

And we're learning that part of this conversation, part of this decision also involved his wife, the first lady of the United States. We're going to check in with Candy Crowley with a little bit more color there after this.


BALDWIN: Breaking news here. The president is now speaking up. His evolution has finished when it comes to equal rights in marriage, saying he now fully supports full marriage equality and as we're learning a little bit more about this decision to support full marriage equality, we're also learning that the first lady -- of course, your wife -- plays a bit of a role when it comes to one's stance on something so significant. I want to bring in Candy Crowley in Washington for just a little bit more.

Candy, no surprise that Michelle Obama and he, I'm sure, had many a conversation about how they feel on this huge issue.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: No. I mean, and we're not talking about nuclear throw-weight here. We're talking about something that people have very personal deep feelings about, particularly religious feelings. The president, when he said he was opposed to gay marriage in that period before his evolution, you know, he said as a Christian, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

So there are all kinds of things that come to play, that are personal as well as political and policy and all of that.

But to make this kind of decision, I think, clearly would involve, as we already know, involve sort of watching his children grow up and knowing families that have same-sex unions with children, you know, that are forming families, as well as your wife. I mean, your spouse is somebody you talk over these kinds of personal contradictions that you have.

BALDWIN: What about, Candy, just the timing of it all? Because you know, I talked to Jessica Yellin at the White House. This certainly wasn't on the books for -- to be happening this week with the president.

We know the back story with Vice President Joe Biden coming out, and speaking in favor of equal rights when it comes to marriage; Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education. And so the president clearly was under a bit of pressure.

CROWLEY: He was. And he had these upcoming fundraisers. And I don't know if you remember, but I think last year -- maybe it was in 2010 during an election year when the president would go to fundraisers for the LGBT community. And he would be talking, and people would interrupt him about two things: same-sex marriage as well as "Don't Ask/Don't Tell".

I mean, he was interrupted so the whole story line of, you know, he's friendly to the LGBT community, et cetera, et cetera, was always interrupted by what was of paramount importance in that community. So he was coming up to some more events where that was likely to take place.

Now why did it happen in an election year? How about last year? He's been evolving for some time. So I think you will look at, and certainly Republicans and critics will look at this and say he's doing this for election purposes.

I mean, I think where -- you know, that his aides are saying, oh, this is risky and there is some risk to it, I imagine, but listen, I remember talking to a -- many, many months ago, early last year, to someone that was to be on President Obama's re-election team. And they mentioned four groups to me of particular importance: African-Americans and keeping up their participation in the voting process for a re-elect; Latinos and getting more registered and having more of them vote Democratic; along with young people and bringing along those people who weren't old enough to vote for President Obama last year, but trying to get them as excited as first-time voters were before; and guess what, the LGBT community, because they put a lot of money in it, they put a lot of effort into it.

So I don't think it's at all surprising that an evolving position has now become an actual position. I would tell you that I think one of the political ramifications of this might be felt by other Democrats.

BALDWIN: How so?

CROWLEY: Well, I will bet you that every newspaper in whatever district in conservative, swing and heavily Democratic states are now calling their representative or senator, who may be up for reelection, saying how do you feel about it? The president's changed his position now on same-sex. How do you feel about it?

So I think it does put some pressure on a lot of Democrats out there that have held the president's previous position. I don't think probably the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid is all that pleased this is coming up now. But there you go. I mean, that's politics.

BALDWIN: It is indeed. Candy Crowley, thank you so much, as it could be, as she points, risky for some Democrats, also obviously this will be fodder for Mitt Romney, who would love to take the president's seat there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

He has been speaking about this particular issue, given the fact that it's been in the news cycle, given what we've heard from Joe Biden and Arne Duncan. And now, of course, what we're hearing from the President of the United States. We're going to hear from Mitt Romney, next.


BALDWIN: Breaking news: President Obama supports full equality when it comes to marriage. That news coming down just within the last hour, courtesy of an interview with ABC News. We are also, though, hearing a little bit more from Mitt Romney, speaking out this morning, on his stance when it comes to gay marriage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most Coloradoans support same-sex civil unions and polls show most Americans, by a narrow margin, do, too. Where do you stand and what do you think?

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, when these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts, I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender. And I don't favor civil unions if they're identical to marriage, other than by name. My view is that domestic partnership, benefit, hospital visitation rights and the like are appropriate, but the others are not.


BALDWIN: Mitt Romney on same-sex marriage. Let's check back in with Wolf Blitzer, working on a show for "THE SITUATION ROOM," which I'm sure you will be doing much, much more on this historic statement from the White House, the back story on this interview and everything else. Who will you be talking to?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We've got, you know, all of our reporters and all of our analysts -- we're going to be getting representatives of various gay rights organizations and the other side as well, those who are very upset. They'll be Republicans and Democrats. The political fallout from this potentially could be rather significant on the plus side for the president.

As you know, Brooke, this could really energize a lot of that liberal base out there. There was almost a -- sort of a deep concern among the Obama-Biden campaign leadership, that maybe they weren't generating enough support out there as they had four years ago, for example, when the president kicked off his campaign officially last Saturday at Ohio State University.

There were thousands of empty seats inside that stadium on the campus of Ohio State University. Four years ago that wouldn't have happened, so that might energize some of the base, the president's historic decision today.

On the negative side, though, there are a lot of religious people out there, Catholics, evangelical Christians, African-American Baptists, who strongly oppose same-sex marriage and that may hurt him in a state like North Carolina, in a state like Virginia, maybe even in Ohio.

You got six months to go, so a lot can play out on this issue, but obviously an important decision by the president. We'll be all over in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

BALDWIN: Wolf Blitzer, thank you. We will see you in a matter of nine minutes there on "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Before I let you go, though, we're going to get a quick break in and then we're going to go to the U.K. where the queen is speaking to Parliament here, this historic 57th time she has ever done this in this diamond jubilee year in London. That's next.


BALDWIN: Checking some other news here. Mark Zuckerberg is in hot water over his hoodie. He wore his hoodie Monday during his presentation to get investors to buy Facebook stock just before it goes public next week and an analyst told Bloomberg TV that the hoodie shows, quote, "a mark of immaturity for the CEO of Facebook." Still, that same analyst gave a buy rating for the stock.

Queen Elizabeth, she spoke to Parliament today for the 57th time in her reign. The annual event is formally known as her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech. She spoke for about 10 minutes and echoed an ambition oftentimes heard on this side of the Atlantic.


ELIZABETH II, QUEEN OF ENGLAND: My minister's first priority will be to reduce the deficit and restore economic stability.


BALDWIN: Next month the queen celebrates 60 years on the throne. We hope you join us. Watch CNN starting Sunday, June 3rd, for full coverage of her diamond jubilee celebration. I'll be there. I'll see you live from London.

John Travolta's lawyer called a lawsuit against the actor "absurd and ridiculous." Two anonymous massage therapists said Travolta groped one and sexually assaulted the other. Travolta's attorney says once the suit is thrown out, his client plans to sue for malicious prosecution. The massage therapists, by the way, are asking for $2 million in damages.

In Texas, this is tough to look at here, this horrifying moment, it's caught on camera. You see the city bus hits a University of Texas student. Obviously, we're telling you the story. He's OK. You saw the young man was able to walk away amazingly moments later with minor injuries.

The Postal Service has backed off a plan to save half a million dollars a year by closing post offices throughout rural America. The agency wanted to close thousands of post offices that really just didn't bring in much money, but the public backlash was swift.

It now plans to keep rural post offices open, but for fewer hours each and every day, and it will also force thousands of full-time workers into part-time jobs and offer buyouts to 13,000 postmasters nationwide.

Hundreds of Occupy protesters showed up today. They're at the Bank of America headquarters -- this is Charlotte, North Carolina. Shareholders were in town, they were meeting and our affiliate there, WSOC, is reporting police did arrest five people. Protesters say they're against the bank's foreclosure practices and coal mine investments.

And satellite images showing new activity have upped suspicions about a key Iranian military site. The International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, suspects nuclear weapons research has taken place at this complex.

This is just southeast of Tehran. There are concerns this site is being cleaned before nuclear inspectors are then allowed in. You know Tehran continues to deny nuclear research has ever taken place there.

Also this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Burt Bacharach.


BALDWIN: That is going to get stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Just as true now as when Burt Bacharach composed it back in 1965, tonight a special honor for the man behind such hits as ""What the World Needs Now Is Love"," "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." President Obama is actually awarding Bacharach and his songwriting partner, Hal David, with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

Well, we have now just gotten word what happened inside John Edwards' trial. A White House official took the stand. Yep, an aide from the White House. We're taking you to Greensboro.


BALDWIN: Top White House official on the witness stand today in the John Edwards trial. Joe Johns covering it for us.

Hey, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the stand this afternoon, Deputy White House Press Secretary Jen Palmieri, who was also a communications adviser for John Edwards during his 2008 run for president and a close friend of the late Elizabeth Edwards.

Palmieri said that when reports of Edwards having an affair surfaced, she told him, apparently speaking about the campaign for president, "Don't think if it's true you'll be able to survive it, because," she said, "the story got right to the heart of what people liked about him."

Palmieri said she was summoned to a meeting at a hotel room in Davenport, Iowa, attended by both the Edwardses as well as wealthy trial lawyer Fred Baron and his wife, Lisa Blue (ph).

Baron was one of the wealthy benefactors who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to cover up the affair, though by the time of this meeting, October 2007, much of the story was in the process of being revealed.

When she got to the meeting, Palmieri said Elizabeth Edwards was very upset because baron and blue had been in contact with Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter. Palmieri said that she learned that Lisa Blue had taken Hunter on a shopping trip on the West Coast.

Palmieri said Baron and Blue tried to explain, telling her, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Rielle is a loose cannon. She could go to the media."

A whole stream of prosecution witnesses expected on the stand the stand this afternoon. The prosecution saying it still hopes to wrap up its case by the end of the week.

BALDWIN: THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blizter begins right now.

BLITZER: Brooke, thanks very much.