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THE SITUATION ROOM

Same-Sex Marriage Ban Overturned

Aired August 4, 2010 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Rick.

Happening now, it's the day many people thought might never come -- President Obama says the long battle to stop the massive oil leak in the Gulf is finally, finally coming to an end. And a surprising new government report reveals -- get this -- most of the oil is now gone.

Also, much more coming up on the breaking news we're following right now -- this landmark decision in California that could permanently change the lives of same sex couples. A federal judge just moments ago knocked down the controversial ban on gay marriage in California. We'll have much more coming up on this developing story.

And as the political debate over immigration reform gets hotter, one key Republican senator now says the guaranteed 14th Amendment right to U.S. citizenship to anyone born in the United States is, quote, "an incentive to break the law."

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll have much more reaction coming in and more details on the breaking news out of California, where only a few moments ago, the same-sex marriage ban has been overturned.

Stand by. We're getting details of precisely what has happened.

But first, it's the moment we've been waiting for. More than 100 days into the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico is now dead -- dead. There's also new information suggesting the majority of the leaked oil is gone. And while the White House isn't celebrating yet, President Obama is certainly praising these latest developments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was very welcome news when we learned overnight that efforts to stop the well, through what's called a "static kill," appear to be working and that a report out today by our scientists show that the vast majority of the spilled oil has been dispersed or removed from the water. So the long battle to stop the leak and contain the oil is finally close to coming to an end. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: CNN's David Mattingly is standing by with more on the government's new report on where the oil is or has been.

But let's get more on the latest developments from Brian Todd -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as of today -- this is day 107 of this disaster. As of today, they are no longer depending on that temporary cap to hold in the oil. That's big news. That 2,300 barrels of dense drilling mud that they injected down the wellbore is now heavy enough, they say, to hold down the oil simply with its weight. Now, theoretically, they could take the cap off and open up that well and the oil spill -- no oil would be coming out.

Listen to Thad Allen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: We now have equalized the pressure -- the hydrostatic pressure of the seawater with the pressure inside the -- the capping stack and basically have reached a -- a static condition in the well that allows us to have high confidence that there will be no oil leaking into the environment. And we have significantly improved our chances to finally kill the well with the relief wells when that does occur.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Today's success a sharp contrast to the long list of failed attempts to stop the well for the first 87 days. You remember that list well. It's like a list of greatest hits -- the blowout preventer, the insertion tube, the containment dome, the "top kill," the "junk shot," the LMRP cap. It goes on and on.

But what about those four point million barrels of oil that were discharged?

We know that that is at least the number that has been discharged. The original cause still uncertain.

Now the government and BP both trying to reassure Gulf Coast fishermen and residents that they won't turn their backs on the cleanup and restoration of the Gulf -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, the final kill, as it's called, within the next 10 days or two weeks, the two relief wells still being dug, how is that going?

TODD: It's still very crucial.

First, they're probably going to decide later today whether to put in some cement from the top now that it's killed. That will be a continuation of the "static kill" that we're talking about here. But ultimately, they want to kill it from the bottom. That's the relief well that you just talked about. They want to do that so they can put cement both inside the pipe and outside of the pipe in the wellbore shaft to cover all their bases. So today, they're preparing to resume drilling that relief well the final 100 feet to hit that blown out well. That could start as soon as tomorrow and take at least a couple of weeks.

BLITZER: And at least as of now, it is dead, dead, dead.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER:

Brian, thanks very much.

So what about all the oil -- the nearly five million barrels of oil that have gone out of this well?

David Mattingly has got information on this new government report, with some surprising information in there -- David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

The big question, where did all this oil go?

Today, we got some answers from NOAA. They put out a big study today and here's how it broke down. Twenty-five percent of this oil was recovered. We know about that. They were able to measure it. And then they believe that 25 percent of this oil evaporated or dissolved naturally -- broke down in the environment the way it was supposed to, because this is an organic material. So that's half of the oil that leaked out -- half of this 4.9 million barrels of oil accounted for.

Here's where, though, it gets just a little bit fuzzy. They talk about oil that was dispersed. Sixteen percent dispersed naturally. Eight percent was dispersed by the chemical dispersants. And what they're looking at that's a little harder to track, they've been watching what amounts to a large cloud of microscopic bits of oil deep down below getting into the ocean. That was something that diffused naturally. They're also looking at where all the oil that broke up with the dispersants is going.

That's something they're continuing to track -- some of this oil breaking up, breaking down, biodegrading, some of it still in the environment. Then, here's the other figure -- 26 percent of this oil is called residual oil. That's what they're calling it. This is oil that's on the surface. It's in the form of sheen. It is in the upper areas of the water in the form of tar balls. It has also come ashore in a lot of places. Some of this has been cleaned up, but some of this is also still in the environment.

So we're looking at the potential of possibly a million barrels of oil, more or less, possibly still out there in the Gulf of Mexico. And they're going to keep an eye on this. They're going to keep tracking it. They're going to keep doing studies. And, of course, the big question here, Wolf, what effect is this going to have on the ecological systems of the Gulf of Mexico?

That's the next big question they need to answer. And that's probably going to be months, maybe even years, away.

BLITZER: The -- the million barrels that are residual, or whatever they're calling it, either already onshore, in marshes or still in the water, that's a huge issue in terms of months, years to come. They've got to figure out what -- what has happened to that oil. The dispersants, though, as you point out, David, that's a huge potential nightmare, as well, because they don't really know the long- term effects of all of those gallons of dispersant -- these poisons that were thrown into the Gulf of Mexico.

MATTINGLY: We did get some good -- good news the other day from the EPA. They were saying that once they saw that they combined that dispersant with the oil, it didn't make the oil any more toxic. So with that in mind, they said it was a good decision -- a wise move, I think was the quote, to use that dispersant on the oil and keep it from reaching shore. They said all along it was a trade-off. They're going to see what sort of consequences these decisions continue to have.

But at this point, if you're looking for something good out of this report, it's 50 percent of this oil accounted for and no longer in the Gulf environment.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on this -- this historic development on this important day coming up. Carol Browner, the president's energy adviser, will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

David Mattingly, thanks very much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: All right, let's get back to the breaking news out of California.

CNN has learned that a federal judge has overturned the ban on same-sex marriage in California. It was part of Proposition 8 that had been approved by the voters in California banning same-sex marriage. But now, a federal district court judge has ruled that that ban is unconstitutional.

CNN's Dan Simon is outside the courthouse in California with more on the details -- walk us through what we know, Dan, right now.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we know is that the judge has tossed Prop 8 aside. In other words, Proposition 8 is found to be unconstitutional.

How that is going to immediately impact same sex couples here in California, Wolf, we really don't know. But this is a hugely symbolic victory for same sex couples. Obviously, they wanted to see Proposition 8 overturned. And here in San Francisco which, as -- which, as you know, is the epicenter for the gay rights movement, there is going to be a huge celebration here in the city tonight. Obviously, a major disappointment for those who are supporting Prop 8. Proposition 8, you know, went to the ballot in November of 2008, passed by a -- by a narrow majority of 52 to 48 percent majority.

I'm just being handed the court documents, Wolf.

And I'm going to read this along with you. This is the -- this is the conclusion page. I'm going to go ahead and read this along. It says: "Proposition 8" -- this is from the judge. This is the judge's own writing, Judge Vaughn Walker. "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its Constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional."

That right there says it all. The judge saying, again -- let me read this again: "The evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples."

Now where do we go from here?

Well, ultimately, this is going to be appealed. And we know that opponents of same-sex marriage already asked the judge to stay this order while this is under appeal. We're going to have to read this more closely and see what happens with that. And we also know that eventually, this whole issue of same-sex marriage is going to be decided by the United States Supreme Court, Wolf. And we're going to be poring through these documents and come back to you a bit later on. But obviously, again, a huge victory for supporters of same-sex marriage -- back to you.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise with our viewers, though, Dan. It could take a year or so for the next -- the circuit court to make a decision whether they agree with the lower district court. Then it could take a couple or three years before the U.S. Supreme Court were to make a final decision on whether or not there can be gay marriage.

But here's the question, in the medium -- in the interim period, what happens to people who want to get married in California who are gay or lesbian?

Can they start, as of tomorrow, go forward and get a marriage license?

Do we know if the judge issued a stay on implementing his decision or if he's allowing it to simply go forward right away?

SIMON: We don't. And, obviously, that's the question that many people want to know, as you put it, can same sex couples go to a courthouse tomorrow and get married?

We simply don't know. We do know that opponents of same-sex marriage filed a petition with the court asking him to set that ruling aside -- set this ruling aside because they anticipated it. They thought they were going to lose. They basically saying -- they were basically saying while this is under appeal, let's not resume same-sex marriage. These issues are still outstanding. And -- and in all honesty, we all know that this is going to be appealed. We know it's going to be taken up by -- by the United States Supreme Court, that it would be a premature to allow same sex couples to begin getting married.

But, obviously, the devil's in the details. And we're going to -- we're going to go over it right now.

BLITZER: All right. Find out, if you can, whether or not the judge issued a stay in implementing his decision, if people are going to be allowed to get married as of tomorrow -- at least get some marriage licenses.

We'll get back to you, Dan.

I want to bring in Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst.

You spent a lot of time covering this story. You know a great deal about it. You interviewed attorneys -- sort of an odd couple of attorneys representing those who wanted Proposition 8 to be overturned.

Do you know or suspect what's going to happen as far as a stay in implementing this decision right away?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yes. One thing we had heard -- and, again, we need to confirm this -- is that maybe both -- it's in both sides' interests to issue a stay. I mean nobody wants anybody to be in legal limbo right now. And there are a lot of iterations that -- that you need to go through. And this is a decision the judge will make.

We're going to find out soon enough, Wolf. But in listening to Dan, the -- the decision is really exactly what Ted Olson and David Boise, those -- you know, one liberal Democrat, one conservative Republican lawyer, both -- they were on opposing sides in "Bush v. Gore." This is exactly what they wanted to hear from the judge, because they say that the basis of this case is just a civil rights case, which is, essentially, that not allowing gay marriage denies people their basic Constitutional rights.

And they say this is something that the court -- the Supreme Court has decided before in cases like "Brown v. Board of Education" on desegregation and also on interracial marriage more than 40 years ago.

So this is exactly their case that they made before Judge Walker.

BLITZER: I want to bring in David Gergen, our other senior political analyst -- David, it's going to go before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals right now. That's considered a pretty liberal court, as you know. But eventually it'll wind up with the Supreme Court. It's going to be critical to see the makeup of the Supreme Court once a decision there has to be made.

But give us your thoughts right now what happens in the interim.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, we'll have to wait and see. But I -- I would like to point out, Wolf, Vaughn Walker, who is the judge in this case -- he's a federal district judge. He's the chief of the district -- district judges in the San Francisco area -- happens to be a personal friend. I've known him for some 20 years.

He was appointed by Reagan/Bush. He was seen as a, you know, a conservative appointment at the time. So for him to issue this ruling, I think, is quite striking. It's also striking he's the same federal judge who took on the Bush administration over wiretapping, said they did not have the authority they asserted.

So I think this is a striking case in which he's come forward. It's daring. I think it's personally courageous, in some ways, on his part. But this is not coming from some lefty out on the left coast. This is coming from a man of principled views of the law.

BLITZER: I want both of you to listen to...

BORGER: You know...

BLITZER: Hold on one second, Gloria, because we're getting a statement from Governor Schwarzenegger, the California governor, that's just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

I'm going to read it. It's three paragraphs. But I -- it's very precise. Because I want you to help me interpret for our viewers the point that Governor Schwarzenegger is making. Remember, this case involved him.

Here's the -- here's the quote from Governor Schwarzenegger: "Judge Walker had the great responsibility of deciding whether Proposition 8 violates the Constitution of the United States. He heard in depth arguments from both sides on fundamental questions of due process, equal protection and freedom from discrimination. There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue. And I am glad that all viewpoints were respected throughout the proceedings. We should also recognize that there will continue to be different points of view in the wake of this decision."

All right, here's the next and critically important paragraph: "For the hundreds of thousands of Californians and gay and lesbian households who are managing their day to day lives, this decision affirms the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves. At the same time, it provides an opportunity for all Californians to consider our history of leading the way to the future and our growing reputation of treating all people and their relationships with equal respect and dignity. Today's decision is by no means California's first milestone nor our last on America's road to equality and freedom for all people." -- David, it sounds like he supports this decision by the district court.

GERGEN: There's no question about it. I -- I think he's -- he's sensitive to the fact that there are strong views on the other side of this. But he goes to the fact that there was all -- all points of view were included in the proceedings. Judge Walker went out of his way to make sure that there was a -- a large record built for the Court of Appeals. He knew this was going to go to -- on appeal wherever it went. And -- and, by the way, he's been very careful not to talk to me about the merits of the case or to others.

But he did know this was going to go forward and he built, very carefully, the -- the -- a foundation so that the Court of Appeals would have recognized that the trial court had done a very thorough job and would have a lot of the material on which to base its -- its own conclusions.

BORGER: You know, there were some -- there were some key questions. You know, folks in the courtroom were saying to me there were some key questions that were asked.

For example, does gay marriage hurt heterosexual marriage in any way, shape or form?

And there wasn't really an answer given to that question.

Is marriage about procreation?

Should we think of -- of marriage as having children?

At one point, the judge asked, well, you know, my 80 something- year-old mother is getting married, is that about procreation?

So there were folks who were sitting in the courtroom during this process, from the questions the judge was asking, who were saying, gee, we think he might rule this way. But, of course, you never know until you know.

BLITZER: I want to go back to Dan Simon, outside the courthouse in California -- Dan, you've been reading this decision by the judge and you're getting more information.

Update our viewers.

SIMON: Right, Wolf.

When I sat up there during the trial, one of the key arguments made by opponents of same-sex marriage is that by allowing gays and lesbians to marry, it somehow marginalizes the role of biological parents. And they brought sociologists and a professor to talk about that.

Well, here on page 95 of the ruling, the judge adamantly refutes that notion that gay and lesbians cannot be good parents. I want to read to you a section of that. It says, quote -- this is from Judge Walker: "The gender of a child's parent is not a factor in a child's adjustment. The sexual orientation of an individual does not determine whether that individual can be a good parent. Children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as likely as children raised by heterosexual parents to be healthy, successful and well-adjusted. The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology."

So here you have the judge basically slapping opponents in the face, saying, I think it's fair to say, shame on you for bringing that issue into the court. There is no serious debate, there is no serious science to back up any notion that gay and lesbians cannot be decent parents -- cannot be -- cannot provide the same level of parenting that heterosexual parents can. That's an important point -- an important distinction the judge is making on this ruling -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, Dan.

Gloria, stand by, as well, and David Gergen. They're not going away.

Andrew Cohen, a legal analyst, is joining us on the phone right now -- all right, Andrew, walk us through what happens now, because a lot of folks, not only in California, but all over the country, want to know will people, gay and lesbians, be able to start getting married in California once again tomorrow?

ANDREW COHEN, CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, CBS: Well, it -- it certainly looks that way, Wolf. In -- in the -- at the end of the order, Judge Walker said because the merits are so clearly in favor of doing away with Proposition 8, the enforcement of it is enjoined. And that means that the supporters of Proposition 8, Charles Cooper, the attorney and so forth, they're going to have to go either back to the same judge and ask for a stay of his ruling or they're going to have to go to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and ask that federal appeals court for a stay. Otherwise, Proposition 8, right now, is null and void based upon this ruling.

Now, the ruling doesn't affect same sex couples in other states at this point. That would only occur if and when the United States Supreme Court were to issue a ruling. But this is -- this is historic. Last month, we got a ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal statute that essentially defined marriage as between a man and a woman. And today, we get this first time, a federal court interpreting the federal Constitution said, no. It said due process rights are violated, equal protection rights are violated by Proposition 8. So depending how it goes on appeal will determine the scope of -- of its effect across the country.

BLITZER: It's an historic landmark decision right now.

Stand by, Andrew.

Chad Griffin, one of the plaintiffs in this case, who helped bring together Ted Olson and David Boise as attorneys representing these plaintiffs who challenged Proposition 8, he's now speaking in California.

I want to listen in briefly.

CHAD GRIFFIN, AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR EQUAL RIGHTS: It is the promise of our Declaration of Independence that we are a nation that believes every man and woman is endowed by their creator with inalienable rights. Those rights are guarded and sustained by the Constitution, not by government officials, not by elected officials and certainly not by ballot initiatives.

Our rights are fundamental. They're the birthright of every American. That's why the American Foundation for Equal Rights took up this landmark case. We challenged in a court of law the flawed, unconstitutional arguments that long had been used to deny Americans their rights. That gay marriage, the love between two adults, is somehow a danger to society. That how we are born, our sexual orientation, not our love or personal commitment, somehow defines a marriage. That state-sponsored discrimination is somehow justified and should be institutionalized with respect to marriage.

And after a lengthy trial, a fair trial, the court rejected the false logic that has been used for so many years to rationalize that blatant discrimination.

But this trial did more than expose that false logic. It embraced the fundamental American values of freedom and fairness. It upheld the notion that the greatness of this country lies in the ability of each successive generation to broaden the scope of freedom, to deepen the notion of liberty and to strengthen the very principle of justice.

Today's decision affirms that under the Constitution, a government of the people, by the people and for the people cannot discriminate against the people.

This decision strengthens marriage by expanding it to include couples that seek it and who would benefit from it. This decision reaffirms the power of marriage to strengthen responsibility and community and to ensure that all Americans in their golden and vulnerable years will be able to live their lives with more security, more dignity and more love.

But there is another powerful consequence of this decision that I hope all Americans take into account. Today, there are millions of gay people across the country -- they are your neighbors, your friends and your family. They see how marriage strengthens the bonds of family and community and they wonder, can they ever have that same strength and stability or will their government continue to say that marriage is not for them?

Today's decision gives gay Americans the hope and strength and comfort that they, too, can have a future filled with love, commitment and shared responsibility.

And so today, we begin the process of saying to the millions of people who are made to feel ostracized, besieged, bullied and ashamed of how God made them, be who you are. Love who you love. And marry who you wish to marry.

As gay and straight citizens take to the streets in celebration here in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas and New York, I know there are millions who must celebrate quietly across America. Places where merely taking the hand of a loved one still feels like a revolutionary act. To those quiet millions, to the teenager in Bakersfield who aches for acceptance, to the college student in Salt Lake who only seeks liberty and equality, and to the couple in Topeka who longs to openly share their commitment and love, this victory is for you. Because in ending the public sanctioning of discrimination in our laws, we render unacceptable the private discrimination you must bear.

This is not the only victory needed to close that gap between the lives you lead and the lives you deserve. But it is a critical victory, one that honors the principles that define America; the principles that stirred a convention in Seneca Falls; the principles that fired -- that fueled tireless marches through Selma, Birmingham and Washington, D.C.; the principles that sparked the fires of resistance at the Stonewall Inn; and the principles that inspire us in this urgent struggle to uphold the right to life, liberty, love and the pursuit of happiness.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights will continue to stand up and fight for these principles, for these founding Constitutional rights of all Americans, until we truly are one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. That's Chad Griffin. He's one of the plaintiffs who -- who brought -- who brought these lawyers together to fight this Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. They have won this date -- on this date before the U.S. district court. It will now go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

And we're getting some more breaking news in just now. And I want Andrew Cohen, the legal analyst who's on the phone with us, to help us explain.

We're just getting a ruling -- a separate ruling from the judge in this case, Vaughn Walker, from the U.S. District Court, Andrew, temporarily staying this decision, saying that, "The proponents have moved to stay the court's judgment pending appeal. They noticed the motion for October 21st, 2010, move to shorten the time. The motion to shorten time is granted. Plaintiff -- plaintiff interven " -- and I'm reading from this document...

COHEN: Right.

BLITZER: -- "they have an opportunity to submit their responses to the motion to stay on or before August 6th, 2010, at which time the motion will stand submitted without a hearing unless otherwise ordered."

In other words, nothing is going to happen, at least for the time being, Andrew, is that right?

COHEN: Yes. That's right. And, Wolf, we had just talked about that before we went to that speech, the idea that these folks who lost today with the 136-page ruling could come back to this judge and say, you know what, we need to ask for a stay. We -- we want you to keep the status quo in place.

Don't enjoin permanently the enforcement of Proposition 8. Let's -- let's fight it out.

And the judge graciously allowed that. And most judges would in this situation.

So things are on hold. And now the proponents of Proposition 8 have to go back to this judge and then go back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and make an argument as to why he's wrong, not just on the law, but why he interpreted the facts -- the many facts that came out during this long trial -- the way that he did. They may have a better chance trying to argue that he got the law wrong than the fact that he got the facts wrong. The facts now are essentially set in stone for the federal court in San Francisco, the Ninth Circuit, and, also, more importantly, the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington.

BLITZER: So while it's a huge victory for those who support gay marriage in California, no one is going to be standing in line tomorrow or the next day or the day after, at least for the time being, getting marriage licenses if you're a gay or lesbian, Andrew, that's right?

COHEN: That's exactly right.

BLITZER: All right, David Gergen, I want you to weigh in on this, as well. You know this judge, Vaughn Walker, of the U.S. District Court. He's allowed the -- the motion to be stayed, in effect meaning they're going to give both sides an opportunity to make their case a little bit longer before they reinstate gay marriage in California.

GERGEN: Well, Wolf, I think that reflects the -- the experience I've had with him, I -- I do not know all the facts of this case. But the experience that I've had with him over 20 years is that he's a very tempered, deliberate, thoughtful judge. And he is willing to go out on a limb when he sees a matter of principle, as he did on the wiretap case, when an appointee of his -- you know, Bush Sr. and -- and Ronald Reagan appointed him to this court. For him to then come out on the wiretapping, I think underscores his sort of independence of mind.

And, again, I think he's trying to set -- to lay a very thorough foundation for what are surely going to be appealed to the 9th Circuit and then surely is going to be an appeal to the Supreme Court.

This clue -- this case is clearly going to the Supreme Court. That's where it's ultimately going to be decided.

BLITZER: And its -- but it's going to take a few years before it gets to the Supreme Court. And a lot of folks wonder what it's going to happen in the meantime, as it goes through these lower courts.

Gloria has been watching this.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: From day one, you've been out there. You've interviewed these lawyers. You know Chad Griffin. He's the one who brought this...

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: -- expert legal team together. But right now, it's just going to be a few more months until -- until they, presumably, allow these gay marriages to be resumed.

BORGER: Well, we don't -- you know, we -- we don't know. We have to see what the judge -- what the judge is going to rule because, clearly, if people were to get married now, they would wind up in some kind of legal limbo eventually. And that's what Judge Walker is going to consider when he considers issuing the stay.

But the interesting thing about Chad Griffin, whom we just saw, is he's a gay activist, a public relations expert. And on the evening that Barack Obama won, they -- this is when Prop 8 was passed. And he was the one who got together with, of all people, Karl Reiner, a Hollywood producer and said we want to take this to the courts.

One thing led to another. They found out this conservative icon Ted Olsen was on their side, joined him up with David Boise against the advice I might add of a lot of gay groups who felt that they were moving too quickly, that you should let the states decide the issue. And they said, no. This is what the courts are for and then you see today's result there.

BLITZER: I know you interviewed David Boise and Ted Olsen. We have some clips. I don't know if we have them ready to right now but I want to play a couple clips from these two lawyers, a conservative and a liberal. They argued before the United States Supreme Court on the disputed election in Florida but then they came together. Listen to what they told you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: If anybody had said to me nine years ago that I would be interviewing the two men who fought each other tooth and nail in Bush vs. Gore on the same side of a constitutional fight, I would have said, are you crazy?

THEODORE OLSON, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFFS AGAINST PROP 8: Actually David and I talked about this in 2000 and as we were getting ready to argue in the Supreme Court that someday we'd like to be on the same side in the United States Supreme Court. And we said, some day, some day someone is going to come to us who will want to get married and they'll be gay.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BORGER: You can see what kind of a relationship.

BLITZER: They've developed a real friendship, too.

BORGER: They have. They developed a close friendship actually during Bush vs. Gore believe it or not because as David Boise said to me, you know, the only person who knows what you're going through in a case like that is the opposing lawyer. And so they became friends.

Ted Olson's wife died in 9/11. And they became even closer then. And so when Olson was picked for this case by Chad Griffin and others he said to them, you know, I think I need somebody from the other side of the political spectrum to be with me.

What do you think if I make a phone call to David Boise? And of course they were thrilled about it and it took Boise about 15 seconds he said to say yes.

BLITZER: You want good lawyers arguing your case. These are two excellent lawyers who know the Supreme Court well.

I want to go to Ted Rowlands down in I think you're in Los Angeles. Are you in West Hollywood right now, Ted, getting reaction from the local gay community?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.

West Hollywood and in the park you see behind me you can see they're setting up a stage. Boise and Olson are coming down here after they address the media up in San Francisco. They'll hop on a plane and address a few thousand people in this park.

Right now we are at the Abbey which is an institution in West Hollywood, a gay bar that's been around for 20 years.

This is Jeff (ph). One of the things you've been talking about in your coverage is the possible national implications to this. Jeff is from Florida. You say this is very, you are very optimistic because of this ruling. Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's really important and once one state bans those bans on gay marriage then it'll open the doors for others. In history California has always been one of those leaders and I think that's exciting for the rest of the country because so many people are denied their rights to marry whoever they want all the time and I'd like to see that change.

ROWLANDS: Are you someone who would like to get married some day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

ROWLANDS: Sooner than later? Are you in a position where you want to get married now or just a right that you want?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's when the time is right if that's the decision I want to make for me and whoever I am with I should be able to do that.

ROWLANDS: Don't rush into anything, Jeff. A lot of obviously celebration here, Wolf. It's funny how the news trickled out because it was, the interview was over the internet and CNN had it first and some people were watching CNN and they heard the news there but then most of the people got it on their devices, their blackberries, et cetera. And have found out. This is a local resident. Matthew, you say you do want to get married. Give us your initial reaction to finding out that a federal judge has overturned prop 8.

MATTHEW: I'm very excited that this has happened. It's about time we are able to get married like everybody else in this world. I'm very excited. It's a good thing. It's a good day.

ROWLANDS: Wolf, we're hearing a lot of that here of course. We would be hearing a lot different story in any different part of the state but here in West Hollywood as you might imagine a lot of celebrating now and I'm sure into the night.

BLITZER: I'm sure there will be a lot of celebrating elsewhere around the country as well.

Let's go back to Dan Simon outside the courthouse where all of this has unfolded.

You've had a chance, Dan, to go through this document that the judge released saying you know what? Proposition 8 is unconstitutional in California meaning that the ban on same sex marriages has been lifted although the judge issued a stay meaning they're not going to be allowed to get married until they have more legal proceedings.

Proposition 8 is dead. Go ahead and tell us what else you're finding.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'd like to read this one section again because it really gets to the crux of the matter. This is the conclusion from Judge Walker. He says proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed the evidence shows proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples. That in a nutshell is the case.

He is saying that, look. Same sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, that by allowing prop 8 essentially same sex couples, gays and lesbians are being discriminated against.

You know we heard from Gloria talking about her conversation, her interview with Ted Olson. I had the chance to talk to Ted Olson myself and one of the things I asked him, I said, from your point of view why do you feel more conservatives haven't come over to your way of thinking? And he kind of shrugged it off. He laughed and he said because I haven't had the opportunity to talk to them yet.

And it was an acknowledgment that in his view he has a long way to go to convince fellow Republicans, fellow conservatives that this in his view is the appropriate way to see this issue.

In any event, Wolf, we know that there's going to be a tremendous celebration here in the city of San Francisco. We know that in a short while people are going to start gathering in the Castro section of San Francisco which as you may know is sort of the epicenter for gay rights. You saw the movie "Milk" it was portrayed in that fashion. They are going to be marching from the Castro to city hall later this evening and we don't know what opponents might be doing, you know, this evening, or how they're going to sort of respond to this ruling but no doubt there will be a response and we'll let you know everything that happens as the day goes on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Simon, thanks very much.

I want to really listen to Ted Olson. He is one of the lawyers who represented those who wanted to overturn proposition 8 in California, that banned same sex marriage. He is a conservative Republican lawyer who represented President Bush down in Florida in the disputed election results.

Let's listen in brief.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

OLSON: -- not have been at that trial, some Americans were able to come but your cameras could not have been there. And we felt from the beginning that it was unfortunate that every American could not have seen this trial, seen the experts talk about the value of marriage, the history of discrimination, the value of equality, and all of the things that this case involves including love and commitment and respect and decency and honor, the things that our clients have been fighting for and not just fighting for themselves but for tens of thousands of people in this state and around the United States.

It is great that this happens in San Francisco, that proposition is overturned by a federal judge in San Francisco. It really means a lot because San Francisco has always been there fighting for gay and lesbian individuals and the city and county of San Francisco, you will hear from in a moment, fought with us all the way to attain this result.

This is a victory for the American people. It's a victory for our justice system. When our individual rights are taken away, when the majority decides that an unpopular group of individuals should be treated differently, and they can't succeed at the ballot box because they are unpopular or because they are a minority, because they are viewed differently by a number of people in the populist they turn to the courts of the United States and we have a spectacular constitution that values equality and values fundamental rights and values an independent judiciary to protect and vindicate those rights.

I have to say that this case has been phenomenal because the chief judge of the federal district court of the northern district of California and San Francisco, Judge Vonn Walker, handled this case with meticulous care, with sensitivity, with concern about the rights of every party in that courtroom on both sides, listened to the evidence, many of you were there during the course of the trial.

Many of you have in your hands 138 pages of analysis, of all of the evidence, the legal arguments, this is what American justice is all about. When a judge, an independent judge tries hard to listen to all of the evidence, analyzes the issues, and comes to a conclusion and vindicates the rights of a minority of our citizens to be treated with decency and respect and equality in our system.

We are so grateful for the justice system that brought us to this moment today as others have said before me. We have other battles ahead of us but with this decision carefully analyzing the evidence we are well on our way toward an ultimate victory and that nothing could be better for the American people, the people of California, and particularly the people of San Francisco. We'll be answering your questions in a moment.

BLITZER: All right. That was Ted Olson the lawyer, one of the key lawyers together with David Boise who represented those who wanted to overturn proposition 8 in California. David Boise is going to be speaking as well. We'll monitor what he has to say, two lawyers, very, very happy with this decision today.

It's not going to go to the next level, the next level in this court proceeding, it is now going to the next level, from is district court to the circuit court, eventually to the United States supreme court but a huge victory for gay and lesbian Americans on this day in California. Much more on this story coming up.

Also much more coming up on the historic day involving the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil well according to the federal government and BP is now dead. Killed, killed, killed. In their words. Much more coming up on that as well.

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BLITZER: Let's get to our strategy session right now. We have two major stories we're following.

Breaking news in California -- Proposition 8 has been overturned by a U.S. district court judge saying it's unconstitutional saying the ban on gay marriage in California is unconstitutional. It will now go to circuit court and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court.

We're also following the breaking news on what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico. That well has now been killed according to the federal government and BP. We're watching both of these stories.

Let's get some reaction from our CNN political contributors Donna Brazile the Democratic strategist and Mary Matalin the Republican strategist. Donna, I suspect you are very happy with this judge's decision in California.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely, Wolf. This is a victory for civil rights. It's also a victory for those who really have been so patient over the last few months as this whole process has gone back into the federal courts. I want to congratulate both lawyers, Mr. Boise and Ted for doing such an excellent job and speaking so eloquently about civil rights and why this was a very important victory for those of us who believe in the equal protection clause of the constitution of the United States of America.

BLITZER: What do you think, Mary?

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, with respect to Ted Olson and David Boise who are extraordinary attorneys, this is pretty much a stretch of that clause in finding rights where they don't necessarily exist and what's going to end up happening which always ends up happening and it's a sorry thing to be having to happen in this campaign season is that it's all going to turn political.

This isn't a civil rights issue. It's distinctly different in the political arena which is where it's going to get batted around and it is just not something that is going to be helpful in this cycle that is otherwise devoted to what needs to be a fix to this economy.

BLITZER: So on this issue you disagree with Ted Olson, the conservative Republican lawyer who represented President Bush back in 2000 in Florida, is that right, Mary? I just want to be precise.

MATALIN: Yes, I think he is a great lawyer. I think this is an overreach. But I say that -- all I heard was what you were reading and I know the arguments and I think it's just going toned up being a political mess.

BLITZER: The people of California had a chance to vote, Donna, on this issue, proposition 8. It passed rather decisively saying marriage should be between a man and a woman and they banned gay marriage but the judge now says that is unconstitutional. Should what the people say in these propositions, should that have an impact?

BRAZILE: Wolf, with all due respect to the proposition and what the people said I do believe this is an issue that is much larger. It goes to the basic fundamental rights of all Americans to be treated the same under the law.

And I do believe that in terms of marriage equality it is a civil rights issue and I'm glad that the judge and his ruling, I haven't had an opportunity to read everything. I've just got a copy of it but the judge made it quite clear that the proposition 8 out there was unconstitutional. So it's going to the Supreme Court. There have been so many other rights decided by the courts in our system and so I look forward to seeing what the Supreme Court will say down the road.

BLITZER: It's going to be a couple years I suspect, maybe three before the Supreme Court hears this. It's going to go to the circuit court of appeals first. So this legal process will be drawn up. Let me get to the other breaking news, Mary. You're down in Louisiana in New Orleans watching what's unfolding, an historic day today. The federal government says that oil, that oil well has been killed. It is now dead. Give me your immediate reaction.

MATALIN: Well, obviously everyone's overjoyed. There's always the trust but verify here. We want to be sure for sure. Another historic event was the MSM director, administrator, the new one at Tulane saying they were going to expedite the lifting of the moratorium. Everyone feels it is a very positive day but victory will be when the fishermen and the vessel workers and the rig workers and everybody is back to work in the marshes and air and wetlands are restored to prespill status. In the meantime we've got to get BP to fulfill their commitment right now immediately to the Catholic Charities who have been providing all sorts of relief down there to people for groceries and rent and the sustenance in the meantime. It's a great day, much progress made, much more to be made.

BLITZER: Donna, you're from Louisiana and have been going to visit your family down there a lot. You must be thrilled as well. It is not over with by any means because there is a long-term impact that will be felt from the dispersants and oil and everything else but on this day the government now says the well is dead.

BRAZILE: There's no question that we're excited about that, Wolf. But I want to echo what Mary just said. There's been a lot of damage down there to the environment, to the estuary, to the economy, to the people who love and live off the gulf. So I would hope that BP will make it right, that the federal government will continue to monitor the situation, the dispersants, you know, the impact of all of the stuff that has gone on over the last 107 days. It has been a very emotional journey for the people of Louisiana, still recovering from two catastrophic hurricanes, Katrina and Rita. I would hope that BP, the administration continues to hold them responsible, and Mary, I just wanted to let you know I just sent a care package down to the governor's office because they are looking for school supplies for some of the kids in the region whose parents have lost their jobs as a result of the BP mess, and I want to applaud the governor and all of the other parish presidents for what they are doing to help those families as well.

BLITZER: Mary and Donna, we've got to leave it there but you guys are always thinking ahead, care packages and every other way you want to help the folks down there. Thank you, guys. Two breaking news stories we are following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. This is a day a lot of folks thought would never come. President Obama now says the long battle to stop the massive oil leak in the gulf is finally coming to an end.

And a surprising new government report reveals most of that oil, most is now gone.

Later we will talk about the growing debate over plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero. There are new developments happening today. CNN talks to the project's developer, and we will hear exactly what he is planning for the site and how he is responding to the outrage. That's coming up right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

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BLITZER: Among the other news we are following right now, including some students fooled by dishonest college recruiters and ending up with dashed dreams and big-time debt. An undercover government investigation is finding out that it is happening at several for-profit colleges as they are called and many of which are receiving federal funds, your tax dollars. Let's bring in Lisa Sylvester. She is working the story for us. What have we learned today, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, this is an undercover investigation that the government of accountability office has been working and what they did is they targeted 15 different schools. These are for-profit schools. These are the types of schools that you may have heard about them that you get your degree online, they're beauty schools, they're IT schools, graphic design degrees, but in many cases they found that a lot of times there were examples where there is outright deception, and sometimes even fraud.

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SYLVESTER: Lots of hype, promises of a lucrative career and the low costs of a degree. Four of the 15 for-profit colleges targeted in the GAO investigation encouraged undercover applicants to commit outright fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I look at it, I will owe $85,000 to the University of Florida. Will I pay it back? Probably not.

SYLVESTER: All 15 were engaged in deceptive practices according to the Government Accountability Office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you would be awesome in the medical field like a medical assistant. They start out at $38 or $40,000.

SYLVESTER: In another case the student applicant was told he could make $600 a day or $150,000 annual salary as a barber.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haircuts are now, I will say $20. Yeah, $20 or $25 and if you had three people come in for eight hours at $25, I would say 75 times eight is $600 a day.

SYLVESTER: In another case, a recruiter told a student to falsely claim under-aged dependence to qualify for thousands of dollars in federal Pell grants.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With two kids and you, it is three people. You might not get the whole $5,000, but you would get over $4,000.

SYLVESTER: The Senate Education Committee says that the number of for-profit schools has exploded from 600,000 students enrolled ten years ago to 2 million students today.

GREGORY KUTZ, GAO SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS: The vast majority of money funding these activities is coming from the American taxpayers.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: To say it is inexcusable does not begin to describe the outrage of it.

SYLVESTER: CNN contacted three of the 15 schools targeted by the GAO and two did not return e-mails or phone calls. The parent group of the University of Phoenix in a statement responded saying, "We have initiated an immediate internal investigation. We have strict policies in place to protect students during in the enrollment process, and throughout their tenure with the university, whenever we discover any violation of this policy, we take immediate and decisive disciplinary action including up to and including termination of the employees involved."

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SYLVESTER: This is not the end of it. The GAO has referred the fraud case to the Department of Education's inspector general's office for a criminal investigation and 3 of the 15 schools were accredited by an outside group, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. They testified on the hill today and officials there are going to review all of this and one option is to pull the schools accreditation. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thank you, Lisa, for that report. Lisa Sylvester will be back.

Was there an attempt to assassinate the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? We're are getting new information. That's coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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