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Trump Becomes First Sitting U.S. President To Enter North Korea; LGBTQ Activists Take To Istanbul Streets Amid Ban; Cities Around The World Mark WorldPride; Fight For Equality. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 30, 2019 - 16:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's good to see you again. I never expected to meet you at this place.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step forward. You will be the first U.S. president to cross this line.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me too. It's a great moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out the way. Move.







DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my honor. I didn't really expect it. We were in Japan for the G-20. We came over. And I said, hey, I'm over here. I want to call up Chairman Kim. And we got to meet, and stepping across that line was a great honor. A lot of progress has been made.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Let's check in now with CNN's White House Chief White House Associate, Jim Acosta. He's in Seoul, South Korea.

So, Jim, how spontaneous was this?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, this was pretty spontaneous. Now I did talk to a law enforcement source who said the Secret Service had been preparing for the president's trip to the DMZ for some time because that had been talked about, that he might go to the DMZ. But in terms of meeting with Kim Jong-un, I talked to a source who's on the scene for this meeting who said this was pretty spontaneous. The president tweeted that this was possibly going to happen, and then his team, quote, "got into gear." And so, this all came together pretty quickly, according to our sources.

And it was a dramatic moment as you were just watching there in that video. Perhaps one of the most remarkable moments of this presidency. The president talking to Kim Jong-un there in North Korea, you know, 20 paces on to North Korean soil and they went inside this meeting for a good -- almost a good hour which was not something that we expected. Remember the president was talking about perhaps just a handshake and then they came out of this and there wasn't a huge diplomatic or a breakthrough when it comes to Kim Jong-un's nuclear program. But the two sides agreed to keep talking.

The president said that both sides will announce teams in the coming days to restart these talks that fell apart in Hanoi, Vietnam earlier in the year. And so these images were remarkable, but I think the more daunting challenge at this point is whether or not the president and his team can somehow convince the North Koreans and Kim Jong-un to give up that which keeps this brutal dictatorship and regime in power. And that is where we stand right now in this sort of intractable position that the North Koreans have been in for some time.

Now moving forward, the president did talk about this idea of bringing Kim Jong-un to the White House. If you thought that seeing Kim Jong- un and President Trump walking around in North Korean soil was markable, just imagine the idea of Kim Jong-un inside the White House and what that would be like. But I talked to a source there on the ground who said in terms of the timing of all of that, that's sort of up in the air that it's too soon at this point to anticipate exactly when the president might bring Kim Jong-un to Washington.

But as the president was putting on display yesterday, he is at times a master showman when it comes to the presidency. And he demonstrated that in this remarkable sort of unimaginable reality TV style moment with Kim Jong-un which really just took -- I think took the world by storm yesterday but again, Fredricka, it's just a matter at this point of whether or not the U.S. could convince the North Koreans to do the very thing that keeps the North Koreans in power and that is talk about, you know, whether or not they could give up this very critical nuclear weapons program that has kept the Kim regime in place for decades.

WHITFIELD: And then just looking at the videotape as it was happening, whether it was the -- you know, the slow walk to the DMZ line, the crossing over, it all looked fairly smooth sailing. But cameras also caught a moment with the new White House press secretary that didn't look so smooth. It looked, you know, quite rough and tumble, in fact.

ACOSTA: Right.

WHITFIELD: So describe for us what happened. I mean, we see her kind of pushing, Miss Grisham, you know, pushing but then we don't see, you know, outside the camera view. What was happening?

ACOSTA: Yes. Yes, I mean, it's pretty remarkable from what I understand talking to a source on the ground there. The North Koreans were pushing and shoving with the Americans in terms of getting in place to cover this spray as we call it. This photo opportunity of the president and Kim Jong-un. And at one point, according to a source involved in all of this, there was a, quote, "all-out brawl" and a bit of a scuffle as Stephanie Grisham was pushing back and forth.

[16:05:09] You see some of this in the video, trying to get the White House press pool into place to cover this meeting. And you know, Stephanie Grisham was a bit bruised in the process. Now I did talk to somebody there on the ground, on the scene for all of this who said she's fine and everybody else moved on with the day. But it just goes to show you how rough and tumble things can be with the North Koreans.

I was with -- I was inside the pool back in 2018 when the president met with Kim Jong-un in Singapore, and we got in place for one of these photo opportunities and at the very last second, the North Koreans rush in and start pushing and shoving everybody because they're just not used to dealing with a free press. They're not used to dealing with a White House Press Corps, and many of us were pushing and shoving back to make sure we held our positions.

And so the North Koreans, they're tough customers, Fredricka. And I think they demonstrated that yesterday. But what is I think an interesting and I think Miss Grisham deserves some credit for all of this, we have not seen this White House, this administration exactly be champions for free press or for the White House Press Corps but what we saw Stephanie Grisham do yesterday and I think you have to give her credit where credit is due, she tried to muscle those North Koreans out of the way so at least members of the White House Press Corps could get in place and cover this remarkable meeting.

WHITFIELD: Right. That's a great point. I thought that was very notable that she was in that scrum, in that fight, on behalf of the U.S. journalists.

All right, Jim Acosta, thank you so much, from Seoul, South Korea.

ACOSTA: That's right.

WHITFIELD: All right. So how is that historic meeting being looked at around the world? We'll talk about that next.


[16:10:37] WHITFIELD: President Trump making history today after crossing over the border at the Korean Demilitarized Zone and stepping right into North Korea. This is how he described the moment speaking to a group of U.S. soldiers in South Korea.


TRUMP: I actually stepped in with Chairman Kim. I stepped into North Korea. And they say --


TRUMP: And they say that's a very historic moment. And I think it is an historic moment. And a very good moment. And he asked me, would you like to do that? And I said, it would be my honor. And we did. And we went over the line and turned around, and everybody was so happy. And many people I noticed from Korea were literally in tears crying, crying, because it's a big thing. It's a big thing.


WHITFIELD: I want to talk more about the meeting with Jean Lee. She is the director of the Center for Korean History and Public Policy at the Wilson Center, and she also opened the first Pyongyang bureau for the Associated Press back in 2012.

Good to see you, Jean.


WHITFIELD: So the president, you know, described people being in tears at -- you know, the sight of this meeting. Do you think the Koreans, you know, the Chinese, Russians are all seeing this as historically significant, as significant as the president does?

LEE: Well, I wasn't there, so I don't know if they were in tears, but that sounds like a bit of an exaggeration to me but I think it's safe to say that the Asians in the region are probably relieved. And I do think that the leaders in the region, President Moon, chief among them, but also Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.

The Russian president, China's president, all had a role in making this happen because, to be frank, people who are living in this region who are North Korea's neighbors do not want a nuclear North Korea and do not want a protracted standoff between the United States and North Korea right on their border.

So while this may seem like a conflict that is far away from Washington, D.C., it is right on their doorstep. So I think they're probably relieved that contact has been made.

WHITFIELD: So how do you measure the value of this meeting?

LEE: It is positive, certainly, after four months of little to no contact between the North Koreans and the Americans that they are in touch again. However, will it get us to -- will it get North Korea to the place where they're willing to give up elements of their nuclear program, partially or completely, to really ensure the stability and peace in this region? I don't know. I think it's a -- it's a risky move because what he has done, is given, just handed Kim Jong-un this enormous amount of legitimacy, he's handed this propaganda boost on a platter.

You can see how North Korea state media are scrambling to get that picture. It's going to be plastered all over North Korean state media. And it puts Kim in a position of strength. And so when it comes time for him to negotiate, he's going to be tougher. And it's going to be hard for President Trump or for any future president to demand that he completely give us his weapons.

I think he's -- Kim is in a better position to say, hey, I will give up my nuclear weapons when you give up yours. And so that's the risk. I mean, I do hope that what this kicks off is a productive round of negotiations but we've seen before a lot of theatrics and very little substance. So let's hope that that's not the case and we're able to get some movement on denuclearization.

WHITFIELD: So wasn't Kim Jong-un likely to be tougher particularly because it was President Trump that walked away, you know, from that meeting in Hanoi? And now that, at least according to the president, he kind of initiated, hey, I'm going to be in the neighborhood. You know, why don't you meet me? Was this kind of a saving face moment? I guess not just for, you know, Kim or -- you know, and for Trump but not more so for one than the other but maybe a saving face for both of them?

LEE: I think that's absolutely right. Hanoi was so disappointing for all sides, and totally understandable that the North Koreans would retreat and try to rethink their strategy. I do think from Kim Jong- un's reaction after Hanoi that he was taken aback that President Trump was willing to walk away so quickly. And I think the bottom line, I think we have to remember is that North Korea is desperately poor, desperately needs some sort of economic deal, economic help from the United States and President Trump knows that.

[16:15:11] He knows he's got the upper hand. But is he going to be able to turn that into denuclearization on North Korea's part? North Korea has been very good at holding on to its weapons. And to be honest, North Korea has used the fire and fury of 2017 to build and perfect its program. And so certainly what I'm concerned about is if we let this process drag out, we are going to end up in a far more dangerous place than we were two years ago.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jean Lee, fascinating. Thank you so much.

Still ahead, Turkey's largest city banned Pride parades but that's not stopping people from turning out to celebrate. We'll take you there next.


[16:20:10] WHITFIELD: Pride parades are happening across the globe this weekend, including in places where LGBTQ communities are under attack. That includes Istanbul, Turkey, where activists defied an official ban on the Pride March and turned out proudly waving their rainbow flags. Police in riot gear eventually fired rubber bullets and pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Ben Wedeman was at the demonstration.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the 17th time that the Istanbul LGBTQI community has tried to hold a Pride Parade in this city, but today and for the last four years, those parades have been banned. That hasn't stopped them from gathering, holding this noisy demonstration.

But, in fact, the Interior Ministry has banned all demonstrations in this area of central Istanbul citing unspecified security concerns. What's different now is that for the first time in many years, the opposition runs the municipality of Istanbul. The new mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, has said that he respects all lifestyles but it's not the mayor who is responsible for security here.

Rather, the governor who reports to the Interior Ministry. And the Interior Ministry is run by a member of conservative Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party which frowns upon this sort of alternative lifestyle.

Istanbul LGBTQ community has put out a statement saying, "We are here. Get used to it. We are not leaving."

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from a very noisy Istanbul.


WHITFIELD: And stay tuned. We will have special coverage of WorldPride, our special "PRIDE AND PROGRESS" is just moments away.

A look at our top stories right now. Three people were arrested and eight injured during violent protests in Portland, Oregon, Saturday, according to police. Demonstrators threw containers that looked like milkshakes but contained, instead, quick-dry concrete. Three officers were among those injured. The clashes started after several different groups of anti-fascists and right-wing demonstrators collided in a downtown square.

Dominican Republic officials say they are looking for one more person involved in the shooting of former baseball star David Ortiz. Officials arrested the alleged mastermind of the shooting on Friday. Victor Hugo Gomez was arrested on the Dominican Coast while trying to flee the country. Gomez is accused of ordering on another man sitting beside Ortiz the night of the shooting.

And now to this week's CNN Hero who is transforming lives through boxing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Let's work. We're using the sport to teach kids how to fight for their own success.

Hands up. Pump it. Boom. Boom. Just like that.

I want them to learn how to apply all the positive aspects of boxing, the self-control, the discipline, the focus and walk around with those principles every day.

This is your homework for today? Let me check you out.

When we give them the support that they need, they learn that they are capable and the sky is the limit. I can't wait for people to see just how powerful our kids are.


WHITFIELD: And to see more about this program go to And while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero.


[16:28:28] WHITFIELD: Hello, again. Thanks so much for joining me for this CNN special "PRIDE AND PROGRESS." I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Right now cities around the world are marking WorldPride Weekend. The worldwide celebrations come 50 years after that pivotal moment when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York, touching off days of riots and bringing the fight for gay rights to the forefront.

Here's a look at the celebrations in Istanbul, Quito, Ecuador, Nepal and New York City. New York is home to the largest celebration and is also this year's WorldPride host. Organizers there are expecting more than four million people to attend today's day-long festivities.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is at the parade and he's joining me right now live -- Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, good afternoon to you. You look over Fifth Avenue right here in Manhattan. It's a virtual sea of people. We have been hearing from people all day. What it really means to them. Of course very important. Not only is today commemorating the fight, that ongoing fight of the LGBTQ community, for equality but at the same time it's also celebrating that monumental moment at the Stonewall Inn.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): Love is taking center stage around the globe today.

[16:30:01] From Portugal to Peru, to Paris, even in Istanbul, where the governor of Turkey's largest city banned Pride activities, citing security concerns. But that didn't stop activists who took to the streets proudly waving their rainbow flags while police in riot gear stood by, eventually firing rubber pellets and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. But the biggest gathering is in New York City where WorldPride is being held in the United States for the first time ever, the largest LGBTQ celebration in the world.

And this year, it's not only honoring the sacrifices and achievements of the gay rights movements, but also the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the country overall support the gay

community so much better nowadays than in those days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our society truly is doing what it needs to do naturally, which is to speak out, stand up, be who you are, love who you love.

SANDOVAL: Today marked the first Pride celebration for Nikki Fleischman and her daughter Madeleine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We moved up here from Georgia, and this was definitely something -- we're still not sure she could have done if we hadn't moved from down south.

SANDOVAL: Madeleine, who is about to start high school, came out to her family last year. Mom Nikki says she's been a longtime supporter of gay rights, but now it's personal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know I grew up around the bay area. So we went to Pride parades in San Francisco a lot. You could feel connected on the outside somehow. This is not on the outside for us anymore. You know, when it's your daughter, you know. It's right there.

SANDOVAL: And back on the streets of New York, this parade certainly shows no signs of slowing down. And really when you hear from activists themselves, this isn't really a parade as it is a march. And when you hear from some of the people who have been caught in that struggle for quite some time here, including some of those who were there that night of that Stonewall Inn riot, it really does add more perspective, Fred.

I want to introduce you to Mark Segal who is going to be joining us live here to tell us a little bit about -- happy Pride by the way.


SANDOVAL: It's so good to have you here, Mark. You were one of the original participants of those Stonewall riots 50 days -- 50 years and 2 days ago. Being here, does this change the definition of Pride for you? What does that mean for you?

SEGAL: Well, I went into that club that night terrified, scared. When I saw the violence in that bar, it scared me. When I got out on the street with my brothers and sisters and we saw visibility. We empowered each other. Today, at that point, there were maybe 75 to 100 of us that fought back that night. We were fighting for visibility for the first time. We were fighting for freedom.

We were fighting from our oppression. Take a look at us today. We are visible. We went from 50, to 75, to 100. Three weeks later, we held our first march as gay liberation front, 400 of us. Today, there are, just in New York alone, four million. I think we've won the war of visibility. Visibility is important because it brings Pride. Pride is visibility. If you know who we are, you know that we're your uncles, aunts, your

brothers, your sisters, your cousins. We're no longer in the closet. We're human. This is who we want to be (Inaudible).

SANDOVAL: (Inaudible).

SEGAL: We're not equal yet. We don't have the equality yet. We're still second class citizens. Today, you can get arrested (Inaudible) can't get married anywhere in this country. In 28 states, you can still be fired the following day because you got married. We're second class citizens. We need to fight for LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ trans, and something no one talks about, our LGBTQ seniors.

I am 68 now. The people I fought with at Stonewall, you know, they're our first generation of out seniors. And many of them are being tossed out of their own neighborhoods, neighborhoods they created.

SANDOVAL: Mark, the importance of it happening here in New York, what's the message that you hope that the rest of the world gets from this? I've seen very colorful folks today, certainly, but there is a message that shouldn't be lost in this celebration. What do you believe the message the rest of the world should know?

SEGAL: The message of Stonewall. We hear you out there in other places. We hear you in the Middle East where they are beheading people. We hear you in Istanbul where they won't let you have Pride. We hear you in Russia where they arrest you. We hear you. What we say to you is we're your brothers and sisters. Take Pride. Remember, Pride means visibility, even if you have to fight back, even if it hurts. We fought back. We are with you.

SANDOVAL: Mark Segal, thank you so much for taking the time, one of the original Stonewall participants, happy Pride to you. And, Fred, again, that's an important context to keep in mind. Yes, the celebration is massive but it really is more about what happened in this city really over five decades ago, what happened not far from where I am standing here at the Stonewall Inn and that galvanizing moment.

[16:35:02] WHITFIELD: Thank you so much Polo and Mark. The Stonewall riots served as the tipping point for the LGBTQ community. Here's a look at some of the major milestones since those historic days.


WHITFIELD: In December 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. January 1978, San Francisco City Supervisor, Harvey Milk, makes history, becoming the first openly gay man to be elected to political office in California.

But that victory is cut short when Milk is murdered by a former colleague just 10 months later. April 1997, standup comedian, Ellen DeGeneres, shocks the world by appearing on the cover of Time Magazine and declaring yup, I am gay. April 26, 2000, Vermont becomes the first state to legalize civil unions between same-sex couples.

And four years later, on May 17, 2004, the first legal same-sex marriage in the country takes place in Massachusetts. In 2015, the fight for marriage equality makes it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 26, the justices hand down a landmark verdict.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ruling today that same-sex marriage is a nationwide constitutional right. And this is one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time.

WHITFIELD: The five to four decision makes marriage equality the law of the land, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states cannot ban same-sex marriage. June 30, 2016, a history making moment from the U.S. military, as Defense Secretary Ash Carter announces that the Pentagon will no longer ban transgender people from serving openly in the military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have reason to be proud today what this will mean for our military, because it's the right thing to do. And it's another step in ensuring that we continue to recruit and retain the most qualified people.

WHITFIELD: That decision was later reversed by the Trump administration.


WHITFIELD: And another milestone for America, the first married gay presidential candidate, the intersection of Pride and politics next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just had to be here for this. And it just shows that, you know, the powers that be can be negative. They can be forceful in their demeanor, but you cannot stop love. And that's what I am getting out of today. And that's hopefully what I am putting into it.


WHITFIELD: That New York parade well under way right now on Fifth Avenue. Officials estimating some four million people taking part in the festivities. And as we mark Pride Month, let's take a look at the evolution of Pride and the White House. Bill Clinton was the first president to officially recognize June as Pride Month in 1999. Another proclamation wasn't issued until 2009 when President Obama took over the Oval Office.

And under his administration, the Supreme Court made gay marriage a right nationwide. CNN Senior National Correspondent, Kyung Lah, takes a look at how 2020 Democratic candidates are fighting for equality.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's probably going to happen in a few minutes.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A short walk through San Francisco's city hall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Information on the marriage license is true and correct to the best of your knowledge?


LAH: Ended a nine-year journey for Chris Perry and Sandy Spear.

KAMALA HARRIS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, we witness not only the joining of Chris and Sandy but the realization of their dream.

LAH: The first same-sex couple to marry after a historic 2013 Supreme Court decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw Kamala Harris run to greet us. She was full of energy and smiling and embracing us, and saying congratulations. This is going to be the best day ever.

HARRIS: By virtue of the power and authority.

LAH: Then California's attorney general, she officiated their wedding.

HARRIS: I now declare you spouses for life.

LAH: Believing it was unconstitutional. Harris had chosen not to defend Proposition Eight, the state's law prohibiting same-sex marriage.

HARRIS: Any day that justice is delayed, I would suggest justice is denied.

LAH: And helped forge the legal path to this moment. Had she defended that law, what would have happened to marriage equality in this country?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We would not have had her marry us. She played a pivotal role.

LAH: From long time equality supporters like Harris.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And to chasten, my love. And I am pretty fond of him, too.

LAH: Two newcomers on the national stage like Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first gay contender with a serious shot at winning a major party nomination.

BUTTIGIEG: There's no going back to normal. Don't listen to anybody in either party who says that we can just go back to what we were doing. Because we in the LGBTQ community know when we hear phrases like make America great again, that that American past was never quite as great as advertised. LAH: There's a reason why the 2020 Democratic hopefuls are courting

these voters. In 2020, characterize the power of the LGBTQ vote.

CHRIS SGRO, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: There are 10 million LGBTQ voters across this country. And we're not just a powerful voting bloc. We're a voting bloc that turns out.

KAH: And in 2020, faces numerous choices, says Chris Sgro, with the Human Rights Campaign. One after the other, the candidates have spoken before the nation's largest LGBT advocacy group, talking about their records, digging deep to stand out.

SGRO: Nearly every single one of them on the Democratic side stands for equality, speaks out consistently for equality. That is remarkable. It shows how far we have come as a country.

KAH: Joe Biden represents a part of that evolution. In 2012, Biden jumped ahead of President Obama on marriage equality on national television.

[16:45:04] JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.

LAH: staunch backers of Bernie Sanders say his support dates back to the early 70s. In an editorial he published just a few years after the Stonewall riots, he called to abolish all laws dealing with homosexuality, then in the 90s, engaged in fierce debates in Congress in defending gay members of the military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The same people that would vote to cut defense $177 billion, the same ones that would put homos in the military.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You have insulted thousands of men and women who have put their lives on the...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am talking about you and liberals like you that keep...

LAH: Ahead of Pride Month, Elizabeth Warren and Beto O'Rourke rolled out platforms that include passing a federal law protecting LGBTQ Americans from discrimination. A measure Kristen Gillibrand also supports. Often stumping with LGBTQ voters, Gillibrand highlights her plans, rolling back Trump administration restrictions on transgender troops serving in the military and halting taxpayer funded adoption centers from discriminating against gay couples.

Sandy Sear and Chris Perry witnessed and live through progress. Hopeful their marriage was one but not the last step towards equal rights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have more solidarity than we ever have. And now, we just have to take that solidarity and make it impactful in this next election.


LAH: I am live here in San Francisco above the Pride celebration. Organizers estimates hundreds of thousands of people are taking part in this event. Among them is Senator Kamala Harris. She's riding in a car that's being driven by Sandy Stire and Chris Perry, the couple who she married. They say it is full circle to be driving her around in this event, because they are giving back now to a woman who made such a pivotal move in their lives, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And right in her own backyard. All right, Kyung Lah, thank you so much. All right, still ahead, we look at a crowning achievement for LGBTQ people, the right to marry. I talk to a man whose Supreme Court case made it happen.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back to our special coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York which was a catalyst for the gay rights movement, and the major milestones that followed. Four years ago this month, the United States took its biggest step yet for LGBTQ rights. This was the moment the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide.

That ruling came nearly 46 years to the day of the Stonewall riots. Jim Obergefell is the man whose case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and ultimately led to the court's decision. His fight started after his spouse, John Arthur, died in 2013. And from then on, Jim struggled to be recognized as Arthur's spouse on his death certificate. And Jim is joining me right now. Good to see you.

JIM OBERGEFELL, MARRIAGE EQUALITY CASE OBERGEFELL V. HODGES PLAINTIFF: Thank you so much for having me and happy Pride to everyone.

WHITFIELD: Happy Pride to you. So what does today feel like to you?

OBERGEFELL: You know, today is just one of those wonderful days where we can all take a step back and recognize and remember that there were so many people who came before us. Those people who really put everything on the line, their entire lives on the line to stand up. Say we exist. And we deserve better. And for me, that's what the Stonewall 50th is all about.

It's recognizing and remembering and honoring those many brave people. And as well, you know, it's hard for me not to always be happy and enjoy when June rolls around, especially June 26th and the anniversary of marriage equality.

WHITFIELD: And, of course, you among the brave, you know, Jim. So take me back to that day when the U.S. Supreme Court made that five- four ruling. You know, what was that feeling like for you? How did you react? What was going through your mind? And were you thinking about the reach? You know, how it would change so many lives?

OBERGEFELL: You know, even before the decision was announced, I became very, obviously, aware of how far this was reaching and the impact it would have on people. So that day, sitting in the courtroom, and once it finally really hit me that we won. I burst into tears with a lot of people around that courtroom. And of course, the first thing I thought was John.

I missed him and wished that he had been there to experience that. But then the other amazing feeling, I realized it was the first time in my life as an out gay man that I felt like an equal American. And that was a beautiful moment. But then to go out in front of that courthouse and to walk through that crowd, I mean, the air was electric with people singing, cheering, crying.

That was an amazing moment of just unbridled joy and community and hope. It was an unbelievable experience for me that day.

WHITFIELD: And then, of course, it was punctuated by another kind of pinch-me moment when you had a phone conversation with then-President Barack Obama. And it actually happened live on CNN. So let's look at that moment again.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I figured when I saw you that we were going to be hoping for some good news, and we did. I just wanted to say congratulations.

OBERGEFELL: Thank you so much, sir. I think it was your wishes.

OBAMA: You know your leadership on this, you know, has changed the country. I'm really proud of you and, you know, just know that, you know, not only have you been a great example for people, but you're also going to, you know, bring about a lasting change to this country. And it's pretty rare when that happens.


[16:55:06] WHITFIELD: So much of the world watched that live as it was happening. So what is it like for you now to kind of relive that moment, you know, of what you were feeling like and, you know, how that victory was underscored by the president?

OBERGEFELL: You know, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get a phone call from the president. And for President Obama to call me and to just say thank you. You helped make our world a better place. I mean, that isn't something I ever, ever thought would happen. And the fact that it was President Obama, someone who was such an advocate, such a supporter of our community made that even more important and more meaningful to me.

You know, I just have the utmost respect for him, and the fact he went out of his way to call me that day is something I'll never forget.

WHITFIELD: Fantastic. Jim Obergefell, thank you so much and, of course, thank you for your courage.

OBERGEFELL: Absolutely. Thanks, Fredricka. WHITFIELD: Thank you. And thank you, everyone, for being with us for

this CNN Special: Pride and Progress. I am Fredricka Whitfield. Have a great rest of the evening, happy Pride, and a great week.