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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Actors and Political Analysts React to President Obama's Historic Support of Gay Marriage in America

Aired May 9, 2012 - 21:00   ET

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


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight evolution or revolution? President Obama pivots on same-sex marriage. Will this change America's mind?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel very strongly that marriage is between a man and a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is great. I mean with the president backing this it's like a great step for gay people everywhere.

MORGAN: What does this mean for the election? We have all the bases covered tonight from politics to the very personal. I'll talk exclusively to "Modern Family's" Jesse Tyler Ferguson, also Clay Aiken, and the woman who may be New York City's next mayor.

Plus the angriest man in America has a lot to say about all this, as you'd imagine. The return of one of my favorite guests, Lewis Black.

Lewis, you got so angry tonight you actually shook your microphone off.

LEWIS BLACK, COMEDIAN: Did I really?

MORGAN: Literally. I've never seen that happen before. It actually just blew off you.

Also "Only in America," Kirk Cameron to Charlize Theron, what I've learned about passions on both sides of this issue.

This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Good evening. We begin like every night with a big story. Tonight President Obama comes out in favor of gay marriage. Listen to what he told ABC News' Robin Roberts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Contrast that with what Mitt Romney said afterwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My view is that marriage itself is a relationship between a man and a woman and that's my own preference. I know other people have differing views. This is a very tender and sensitive topic, as are many social issues. But I have the same view that I've had since -- well, since running for office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: So tonight's big story, President Obama's support for gay marriage. How much of it is personal, how much is political. Is this a game-changer in the run for the White House?

I'll ask a man with a lot to say on the subject. Frank Bruni of the "New York Times".

Frank, a momentous day. Before you say anything, I want to just read out what you wrote this afternoon after hearing this news. Very powerful words, I felt. You said, "I think about how it would have felt to me when I was 16 and fearful and often deeply, deeply depressed to hear a president say what ours did today. I can't imagine it in the three decades since our country has traveled an enormous distance and today is a poignant and compelling marker of that."

Really strong words there which I think will resonate with many, many, particularly quite young gay people who've been through a similar experience that you have in your life. Tell me how you felt when you heard the president say those words? How did you personally feel?

FRANK BRUNI, NEW YORK TIMES: I was -- I was sitting home alone. And I was teary, I have to say. I mean we're going to hear a lot, probably tonight, over the coming days about what he didn't say. Did he go far enough, how long did he wait to say this? But for right now, what I'm focused on is the president of the United States just said he stands fully with gay and lesbian Americans. And when I heard him say it, I was teary.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, it was, it was a seismic, historic moment. I mean one of the biggest, I would say, in terms of any kind of social, civil issues since the Civil Rights Movement. You know, and the -- I think that the fact that you had the first black president saying this as well showed really how far America has come. I mean an extraordinary day.

BRUNI: I think the -- I think the symbolism of that is meaningful and extraordinary, yes.

MORGAN: And it really is. I mean it would have been unthinkable a few decades ago.

In terms of what happens now, the critics, I guess, will be jumping up and saying, look, OK, this is all very well but he's made it clear it should be left to the states to decide whether they bring in gay marriage. We've already seen in North Carolina steps being taken by certain voters in certain states to try and guarantee that it doesn't come into their state.

What do you think this will do to the debate in America?

BRUNI: Well, I mean the presidency above everything else is a bully pulpit. This is a decision that ultimately is left to the states. I don't think we're going to see this year or maybe even next, you know, a tide of states legalizing same-sex marriage, but I think we're going to hear and see the discussion shift ever so slightly.

The person who is our highest elected official just made clear finally, at long last, where he stands of the and I think that will in incremental but definite ways shape public opinion over the -- over the months and years to come.

MORGAN: I mean, tell me this, Frank. I mean, is it -- is it really in the modern world, is it sensible, is it right, does it feel fair that you can have in America with all these states different laws in different states? Is it not time that that whole system was turned on its head so the president can say if he wins the race to become president, he has the right to say I want it to be law in the whole of America, that gay marriage is legal, and other social issues?

I mean, does this not illustrate in my view the futility of a state system, where you can travel around America and you can be legally gay married here, not legally gay married there, legally gay married here?

BRUNI: No, it's a big --

(CROSSTALK)

BRUNI: It's a big problem. And because of things like the Defense of Marriage Act, which our last Democratic president signed into law, you can be married in one state, move to another and suddenly your marriage isn't recognized and means nothing.

No, it's a -- it's a big problem. And I think we have to have a discussion from this point forward about now that we know where the president stands. I think we always knew where he stood even though he wouldn't say it. But that's a whole different discussion. I think we now have to start talking about what can be done at the federal level, what's -- what reasonably can be done, what can be accomplished that maybe can begin to chip away at that patchwork and address this as an issue of justice that knows no state boundaries.

But I think for today I just want to focus on what the president said, which was so extraordinary and meaningful to me and millions of other Americans.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, it was unbelievable. I was on Twitter at the time, it just blew up. You know, everyone around the world celebrating or reacting or criticizing, whatever it may be. It just exploded all around the world, all corners of the planet. And I think that that showed the importance of it, the significance of it.

BRUNI: Absolutely. MORGAN: And how much do you think Barack Obama got bounced into this? I mean my theory of the Joe Biden interview on the weekend is that the vice president of the United States doesn't just calmly come out with comments like he did without the president at least being aware. I mean it seemed to me they were testing the water with Joe Biden and quite like what they saw in the reaction so the president decided, right, I'm going to seize the moment.

BRUNI: I don't know that I agree with you on that. I think that Joe Biden is not the most disciplined vice president or speaker in the world. I don't -- I don't know that -- it doesn't feel to me like there was a decision he would say this on Sunday and that they would maybe have the president doing what he did today by today.

It doesn't feel to me like that. It feels to me like maybe there was enough of a discussion in the administration about the president taking this position by the end of the year before the election that it sort of -- it's what led to Joe Biden getting ahead of the administration and getting ahead of himself.

The way this week played out, it felt much more frenetic than something that was choreographed specifically.

MORGAN: I mean, politically, where does this leave Barack Obama against Mitt Romney? The sense that in 1996 Barack Obama said I'm fully supportive of gay marriage and then over the next 15 years, he reined back and now he says he supports it again. This, you might argue, is classic political flip-flopping of the exact kind they would -- you would expect in going after Mitt Romney on as his weakness.

Does this make Barack Obama a flip-flopper and does that help Mitt Romney come November?

BRUNI: I don't know whether it's going to help Mitt Romney come November. It's going to be really interesting to see how this plays out. Does it make Barack Obama a flip-flopper? Yes, a little bit of one. But you show me a politician who's not a flip-flopper. I mean I don't find the flip-flop stuff when we -- when we direct it at Mitt Romney to be the most compelling line of argument because I think politics is -- is an arena of much flip-flopping.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: It is. It's always harder, I think, with the flip-flopping if you start with one firm view, then go to another and then go back to the original one. But anyway for now, Frank Bruni, it is a momentous day and I'm glad that you stressed that.

Thank you for joining me.

BRUNI: Thanks for having me.

MORGAN: The battle of gay marriage has exposed a divide in this country over faith and family. On the opposite sides of our big story tonight, Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, and Chad Griffin, incoming president of the Human Rights Campaign. Welcome to you both.

Let me start with you, Chad, if I may. What is your reaction to what happened today?

CHAD GRIFFIN, INCOMING PRESIDENT, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: It's astonishing what President Obama did today. And a lot of people out of Washington are giving the political reaction. But to LGBT people across this country, it was a very personal and emotional reaction.

The president today didn't just say that he supports gay marriage, he did it in a way by describing what brought him to that point. His two daughters, his wife, people in the military who don't have the same rights as their colleagues, Marines, Navy officers. But he's already impacted the lives of millions of people across this country, Piers.

Every single night LGBT people get in their beds, turn out the light and instead of closing their eyes and going to sleep like their friends and their parents and their colleagues, they stay awake and stare at the ceiling fearing the next day.

What the president of the United States said today, the first president of the United States said today is that he cares for them. He is their president, he is standing up for them and he believes that they too are equal under the law. And that -- that is incredibly significant.

And I also think that it is the -- we will never have another president, Democrat or Republican, that opposes gay marriage.

MORGAN: Let me turn to Bill Donahue.

Bill Donahue, you don't agree with this. What was your reaction to what the president did today?

BILL DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Well, it all started with our friend, Mr. Joseph Biden from Delaware, on "Meet the Press," didn't it? He brought the guy out and asked to come clean. As you probably said Obama has always liked the idea of two men getting married. He had to change because he wanted to become president and he said he invoked his Christian moorings. Why he said he was a Christian, and Christians don't believe in two men getting married.

Now today he had to wiggle with that, didn't he? So he said well, I'm going to invoke the golden rule. The problem with the golden rule idea is that it covers the marriage of Patricia and Alan Muth. Patricia and Alan Muth are brothers and sisters. They went into the courts and argued that they have a right to get married.

Now I want to ask this gentleman here, does he have a problem with that?

MORGAN: OK. Well, do you have a problem with that?

GRIFFIN: Look, I -- the gentleman brings up the golden rule. And the golden rule really is something that most all of us were taught. I know my mom taught me the golden rule.

DONAHUE: What about the Muths? What about the Muths?

GRIFFIN: And --

DONAHUE: What about the couple --

GRIFFIN: And I learned --

DONAHUE: The brother and sister who want to get married? Do you have a problem with that, sir?

GRIFFIN: I find -- I find --

MORGAN: Answer his point.

GRIFFIN: Sure. I find what he's saying to be ridiculous.

DONAHUE: It's in the courts.

(CROSSTALK)

GRIFFIN: And I don't think any Americans would support that. This is about two loving couples --

DONAHUE: You discriminate then, don't you?

GRIFFIN: -- wanting to make the lifetime commitment of -- wanting to make the lifetime --

MORGAN: Well, let me --yes, let me ask you, Bill Donahue, what essentially is your problem personally --

DONAHUE: It's very simple.

MORGAN: -- with two loving Americans getting married?

DONAHUE: It's absolutely very simple. I have a doctorate in sociology from NYU and I know what the literature says. The literature is definitive. There is one gold standard. One gold standard for children. That is, there's no substitute for a marriage between a man and a woman.

I want the law to discriminate against straight people who live together. I used to call it shacking up, now it's called cohabitation. I want the law to discriminate against all alternative lifestyles, against gays and unions. I want to promote and to put in a privileged position that institution of marriage between a man and a woman which has been shown over and over and over again to be the gold standard, the blue chip standard.

Why in the world would we want to relativize marriage? It's punishing children.

MORGAN: Well, let me -- let me just -- let me just -- let me just analyze this blue chip standard, because of course one in three marriages, heterosexual marriages, ends in divorce. We have Britney Spears, and they got married for 55 hours, Kim Kardashian, 72 days. Are these the kind of marriages that you prefer?

DONAHUE: No. I --

MORGAN: To a gay couple that have been together 20 years?

DONAHUE: No, it's not just about love. A child needs a mother and a father. On Sunday, we celebrate Mother's Day. What are you going to say to the kid, you people who love the politics of inclusion, who has been excluded because he has two fathers?

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: See -- this is where -- but this is where you sound a bit like an old dinosaur, Bill.

DONAHUE: How do you explain to that kid? No, no, no.

MORGAN: No, this is where you sound like a bit like --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Let me have my say.

DONAHUE: You're going to encourage --

MORGAN: Let me just have my say. I've got -- I've got four kids.

DONAHUE: Right.

MORGAN: This is what you say to them. You know what marriage is about? Marriage is about two loving people who are going to love their child.

DONAHUE: Right.

MORGAN: There are many, many straight parents in America who abuse their children.

DONAHUE: Right.

MORGAN: Just because you're straight it doesn't make you any better as a parent than someone who's gay. Why would it?

DONAHUE: Well, because, as I've tried to say to you, the social science evidence is on my side, not on your side. We know the blue chip standard is.

MORGAN: What is it?

DONAHUE: And I say to you -- excuse me.

MORGAN: What is the social science evidence?

DONAHUE: Excuse me, Piers, look, Alan and Patricia Muth wanted to get married, they're brother and sister. You tell me that if people love each other, is that -- if that's the only basis upon to have marriage, you cannot stop incestuous marriages.

MORGAN: No, no, Bill.

DONAHUE: You cannot do it.

MORGAN: Bill, let's just -- let's just get back to your views of gay people, all right?

DONAHUE: No, we never talked about my views of gay people. We were talking about the institution of marriage.

MORGAN: Have you got --

DONAHUE: You never asked me about gay people.

MORGAN: Have you got children?

DONAHUE: Yes, of course. What kind of question is this?

MORGAN: OK. What if one of your -- no, let me -- I ask the questions, it's my show.

DONAHUE: Yes.

MORGAN: What if one of your children said, dad, I'm gay. What would you do to them?

DONAHUE: I would love --

MORGAN: What would you say to him?

DONAHUE: I would love them because you -- the Catholic Church teaches that all people, gay and straight, should be loved. They're children of God. That's a separate question from the institution of marriage should we just relativize it.

Look, I am a veteran. If we give veterans status and benefits to people who are nonveterans, we have devalued, we've depreciated the status of a veteran. If marriage is the best institution for children, which is run by a father and a mother, not two fathers and not two mothers, Mother's Day is coming up, say it again, then we should discriminate in its behalf. It's very simple.

MORGAN: Well, let me give you the last word, Chad.

GRIFFIN: Yes, sure, Piers. Let me just say that what President Obama did today is consistent with where the majority of American people are.

DONAHUE: No, it's not.

GRIFFIN: We're a growing number of Democrats -- where a growing number of Democrats and Republicans from Dick Cheney to Ted Olson to Laura Bush. It is consistent. It's where the country is headed and I expect in not the near -- the too distant future, people like the activists here against me today will soon regret these words. And I believe too will evolve to the side, the most American of all views, and that is equality and freedom. And President Obama put us one step closer to that today.

MORGAN: Chad Griffin, Bill Donahue, thank you both very much.

GRIFFIN: Thank you.

MORGAN: Just yesterday Clay Aiken said he wished President Obama would, quote, "hurry up and evolve faster."

So, Clay, you must be pretty happy that he reacted so quickly?

CLAY AIKEN, SINGER: I -- I am. I feel so empowered.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: I mean a big day for every -- you know, every gay American. A big day for every American in many ways, whatever reaction you had to it. How did you feel when you heard the news?

AIKEN: You know, it is a little bittersweet. I'm in North Carolina and as a North Carolinian was really disappointed with the way the amendment initiative vote went yesterday here in North Carolina. But it's very promising to hear President Obama finally come up and speak out on something that's so important. And I think that the groundswell, the energy that was behind a lot of the activists and the people who were important in the vote here yesterday in North Carolina.

That energy made its way to Washington and President Obama realized that this was the time to speak up and to speak out on the freedom for everyone to marry.

MORGAN: When you hear Bill Donahue, the president of the Catholic League -- you know, I'm a Catholic, you know, Joe biden is a Catholic. When you hear him saying, you know, if one of my children is gay, I would love them, et cetera, et cetera, but I would -- clearly the extension of his argument is I wouldn't ever let them get married.

So, you know, they're fine, I'd love this little sinner, but they couldn't then have the same rights as my straight children. To me that's where the whole argument starts to crumble. You know, I almost --

AIKEN: Well, I --

MORGAN: -- respect it more if he came out and said, I hate gay people, I hate everything about them.

AIKEN: Right.

MORGAN: I respect that more than this wishy-washy nonsense about, you know, well, I would love them, of course, I would. You know, really? AIKEN: I was worried about coming on here and looking foolish tonight and there's no way that I can now because the standard has dropped to the floor. I -- you know, I was listening to that interview and I thought to myself, you know, if you want -- you want to discriminate against straight people, why don't we -- I'm assuming he'd be interested in outlawing divorce then because there's nothing that disrespects the institution of marriage more than divorce, and the divorce rate in states that have -- that have legal same-sex marriage is far lower than the divorce rate in states that don't.

MORGAN: I just find it extraordinary that in North Carolina, your state, that people feel strongly enough when there's economic crisis, there are wars, there's famine, they want to go out and vote for their right to absolutely guarantee two loving gay people can't get married. What is wrong with them? I mean seriously?

AIKEN: Well, you know, in North Carolina --

MORGAN: I disagree -- I disagree with my wife about all sorts of views.

AIKEN: In North Carolina, we really -- we really held off on this for a long time. We were -- the people in charge of the general assembly for the last 150 years have been able to keep this off the ballot. It was -- it was a switch in the general assembly, the Republicans took over control after 150 years out of control, and it was one of the first things they did here in this state. They decided that they wanted to put something, put something on the ballot that I think they believed would energize their base.

I'm not sure that it will do exactly what they want. Because I think that a lot of North Carolinians are now learning what this vote was and what they -- what they voted for. Yesterday the paper here in town talked about people coming out of the polling places saying, I'm absolutely against gay marriage. I'm OK with civil unions, but I'm not for marriage so I voted for the amendment, and they didn't realize until now they're going to start realizing that this amendment here bans civil unions, it bans domestic partnerships for both gay and straight couples.

And as people realize that this amendment was written in a way that was sort of deceptive, I think they're going to see -- I think you're going to see a groundswell of support to start the process of going ahead and repealing it.

MORGAN: Yes, I think it may be time to wake up and smell the coffee in North Carolina. Anyway, Clay Aiken, thank you for joining me very much.

AIKEN: Thank you.

MORGAN: Coming up, my exclusive interview with "Modern Family's" Jesse Tyler Ferguson and next the top New York City politician whose marrying her partner in just a few days.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them. And frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Back now with more on our big story, President Obama comes out in favor of gay marriage.

Joining me now is Christine Quinn, New York City's council speaker. She says today's remarks by the president are a turning point and she has a pretty good reason for believing that. She's marrying her partner, Kim, on May the 19th.

Welcome, Christine. Both your fathers are walking you down the aisle, which is a pretty amazing event.

CHRISTINE QUINN (D), NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: It is. Their -- Kim's dad is 86, mine is 85. They're both World War II veterans. Kim's dad a Marine, mine a Navy veteran. Both of us lost our moms when we were teenage girls, so it's really an amazing thing that New York passed this law, this equality step last year in time for the both of these men to get to be there with us. Because when the bill failed in 2009, I was -- I knew it would pass some day, but I was afraid, God for bid, one of them wouldn't be able to be there with us and that's not the case.

MORGAN: And what I find fascinating is that they would represent, you would imagine, the generation and the background, both military men, who may instinctively be opposed to the whole notion of gay marriage. So how have they come to embrace this so wholeheartedly? Has it been a rocky road? Were they opposed originally? I mean what's it been like?

QUINN: You know, I think it was an evolution, much like it was for the president. I know when I first told my father I was gay, he wasn't happy about it, at all. But now every day he comes to city hall, he volunteers every day, he marches in every gay pride parade with me, he's always there when I need him.

And I think it's an evolution. And I think the president was right. Part of that evolution is fueled by people you know, people you love, people you respect, talking about the fact that her LGBT, sharing their lives with you. And if you're a dad really loves your child, you're going to evolve, no matter how much it isn't what you thought your child's life might look like.

MORGAN: I mean powerful, though, the president's words were today, you've got to hold him up to a slight candle of hypocrisy in the sense that in 1996 he said publicly I support gay marriage, and then he went on a weird journey and evolution the wrong way, you might argue, against it and now he's popped up again saying that he supports it.

I mean that's not politically that smart, is it? I mean, if I was Mitt Romney, I'd be like right.

QUINN: You know --

(CROSSTALK)

QUINN: Pardon me?

MORGAN: If you were Mitt Romney, you might be thinking they were going to hammer me over flip-flopping, I've got him here.

QUINN: You know, he's in the right place today and that's really from my perspective what matters. And what to me is so powerful about what happened today, look, it's thrilling for me, right? It's the best wedding present I could have gotten. But what's more important is how every LGBT child in America felt today. What they'll feel when they go to bed tonight that they wouldn't have felt last night. That's much more important to me than the political whatever of this.

LGBT children and the children of LGBT people are going to go to bed tonight, even if there are children who don't have anyone they can tell that they think they're gay, they're going to go to bed tonight knowing the president of the United States thinks they should have full marriage equality. Thinks that their future families or their present families are just as good as his and anyone else's.

That is incredibly powerful. That will save lives as LGBT children struggle with the tough process of coming out.

MORGAN: Yes, I completely agree. And also it must be said that the president is now the president.

QUINN: Yes.

MORGAN: So when he made those views public in '96 --

QUINN: Absolutely.

MORGAN: -- it's a very different ball game to when you are -- you know, already you're the first black president America has ever had and then you're going to stand there and you're going to sit there, as he did, and make this profound statement about gay marriage. This is a big deal.

QUINN: It's huge.

MORGAN: And I think the courage it took him to do that shouldn't probably be clouded by his earlier stuff, although I suspect the Republicans will cloud it for him.

QUINN: You know what, let them. This at the end of the day is about courage, it's about equality and it's about a vision that America's promise is for everyone. And that every family is united by love. And that that love is a good thing. And that love deserves the same protection regardless of the gender of the people in that relationship. Think about just the idea you have people who want to get married, who want to commit themselves to each other, who dedicated their lives to struggling for this legal recognition and you're going to try to fight that? It's just counterintuitive to any logic about what is positive in our world.

MORGAN: Christine, I've got to leave it there but I love your enthusiasm for all this. I wish you all the very best on your -- on your wedding day. What a moment that'll be. Two American military heroes walking their daughters down to get married to each other. That is how far America has gotten.

QUINN: Yes.

MORGAN: Thank you very much for joining me.

QUINN: Thank you.

MORGAN: When we come back, my exclusive interview with "Modern Family's" Jesse Tyler Ferguson. He's here and he's live and I suspect very excited.

Welcome. Good to see you.

JESSE TYLER FERGUSON, ACTOR, "MODERN FAMILY": Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we're thinking about adopting another baby, then we need to -- no, no.

(CROSS TALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell is happening here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that "Footloose?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really? You couldn't even share telling your family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Jesse Tyler Ferguson playing one-half of the gay couple on the hit TV series "Modern Family" and joins me now exclusively. A big day, such a big day, in fact, that you took to Twitter and you actually proposed to the president. You asked Michelle Obama's permission. There's your Tweet, "with Michelle Obama's permission, I would like to marry Barack Obama right now."

JESSE TYLER FERGUSON, ACTOR: I mean I could have given him the biggest hug today. I was already enamored with the man and today just sort of sealed the deal for me. I was -- it's been a great day.

MORGAN: Of course, the irony is that you could marry him in New York, but you couldn't marry him in California.

FERGUSON: Yes, exactly. I mean, it's -- I'll go wherever he wants me to go to marry him. Let's put it that way.

MORGAN: It always struck me as perverse that California must have more gay couples than probably any state in America. I have no idea if the stats back me up. I'm just guessing here, the home of Hollywood.

FERGUSON: It feels that way, especially in Hollywood.

MORGAN: And yet there's still this law that is now in six, seven states in America. And it still isn't applicable here. How do you feel about that?

FERGUSON: It was shocking, especially when Proposition 8 was first on the ballot, because I felt -- I was just certain that it would never come to be, because we are California. And everyone I know is in support of gay marriage.

But I do forget California is a very large state, and not everyone lives in the nucleus of Los Angeles.

MORGAN: Why do you think the critics of this care so much?

FERGUSON: Well, I mean, it really seems to boil down to the definition of marriage. And I feel like what people don't understand is we're not looking to change the definition of marriage. Cynthia Nixon once said, you know, when a black man wants to eat at a counter with his white friends, he wasn't looking to change the meaning of eating out. He just wanted to have a meal with his friends.

So it's a very -- you know, the religious angles are thrown at us. I think that people are very afraid. And I think that's what it really boils down to, is just lack of knowledge for what it means for us. It's not about a title. It's about so much more.

I mean, there are equal rights that we are look to having that we just -- we don't have right now. And it's not just about the title of marriage. It's the whole institution.

MORGAN: I interviewed Kirk Cameron. It wasn't so much --

FERGUSON: Oh, boy.

MORGAN: Exactly. Talk about "Growing Pains." But what I was struck by was that it wasn't so much that he was opposed to it. It was the language he used was so violent. It was gay lifestyles are destructive to civilization. I thought, what?

FERGUSON: Yeah, that --

MORGAN: People can still feel that.

FERGUSON: I know. It's shocking. And again, like I have lived in New York and California most of my life. I was raised in New Mexico. Certainly a lot of people there still feel that way. I do forget that there's so many parts of our nation that feel that way.

But I think a lot of it is just -- it's really lack of knowledge and it's fear.

MORGAN: Is it more ignorance than bigotry, do you think?

FERGUSON: I hope so. I mean, I would like to think it's more ignorance than bigotry, but I do feel that there are a lot of people who are very bigoted in our country. And that's discouraging. But I do -- I do feel like a lot of people are being -- the message is getting through to them.

Once you sort of break it down exactly what it means, that it's not in any way a threat to their marriage and has nothing to do with them, you know, it's about us being able to visit our loved ones in the hospital, and the kind of very human things that we're just looking for.

I think when you actually talked about taxes and medical needs, I think that they sort of realize that it's not a threat to them. I think they're being educated and their minds are being changed.

MORGAN: Were you a bit fed up with Vice President Biden when he quoted a rival show, "Will & Grace"?

FERGUSON: No. I love "Will & Grace." So I -- I agree with him. I think that did a lot for -- for --

MORGAN: On a serious point, how important do you think television shows like "Will & Grace," like "Modern Family," have been in changing public perception? Because I think they have been hugely important.

FERGUSON: It's hard to tell just being a part of it. But I do feel like we're in -- this is a great civil moment right now. I think we're in a lot of movement with marriage equality. And to have a pop culture touchstone that people can kind of go to and relate to and have two characters who people love, so I hear, is very -- is very helpful.

I do think it has changed lots of people's minds.

MORGAN: Forty, 50 years ago, you -- if you were playing that kind of character on television in America, would have got abused in the street quite likely if you went around America. Do you still get that kind of reaction from anywhere that you go in your country?

FERGUSON: I personally have not had that reaction. I do have a lot of kids who come up to me who are bullied, who are having a hard time coming out to their parents, who thank me and Eric Stonestreet, my partner, for being on TV because they have someone to point to, to relate to.

And I do feel that those moments when I get to meet those people and sort of hear those stories really makes my job not feel like a job. It makes it feel like something so much more.

MORGAN: It certainly is. Jesse, thank you very much for coming on.

FERGUSON: Thanks for having me.

MORGAN: When we come back, what will the president said today -- will it change anybody's mind? I'll ask some of the smartest people in politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Back now with more on our big story, President Obama coming out in support of gay marriage. With me now is Elise Jordan, a former speech writer for Condoleezza Rice and a "Daily Beast" contributor, Dana Loesch, editor of BigJournalism.com, CNN political contributor Hilary Rosen, and Ben Smith, editor in chief of "Buzzfeed."

Welcome to you all. Dana, let me start with you, because I've been studying your Twitter feed today. You're clearly enthralled by the whole day, and probably enjoying the lovefest that's gone on on my show tonight. So go on, pour a load of cold water over it all.

DANA LOESCH, BIGJOURNALISM.COM: No, I'm just -- Piers, I'm really fascinated by the evolution of the president's stance on states' rights. I talked about this over on Breitbart.com just this evening. This is something that the president -- he's never come out on states' rights before ever. He doesn't believe in states' rights on immigration, health care or anything else.

But suddenly, just today, he believes in states' rights for gay marriage. I know "Gawker" called it a sham. They think it's a copout, his stance on gay marriage. But at least we kind of get a little bit of clarification on all of this. But that's what I was focusing on, was states' rights. It came up finally.

MORGAN: Right, but what do you -- OK, let's put that issue to one aside. What do you personally think of the president of your country sitting there and announcing momentously that he supports gay marriage?

LOESCH: He basically just affirmed what everyone thought anyway. But what he was I think too -- honestly, to be frank, I think he was too much of a coward to say so earlier, because he thought it was going to hurt his chances for re-election. And he was kind of drawn hastily into a corner because of Joe Biden's remarks, and because of the North Carolina amendment passage just last night.

So they had to -- he had Ed Rendell calling him out.

MORGAN: Dana, do you agree with him?

LOESCH: What does it matter if I agree with him or not? We're not talking about what I believe on this. We're talking about what Barack Obama has said on this. And we're talking about also the issue of states' rights, as it concerns gay marriage and making it part of policy in the country.

I think what the president needs to answer is how he thinks that this is actually going to be enacted across the country as policy without all of the different conflicts between different states' recognition.

MORGAN: OK. Let's go to Hilary Rosen. Can you answer the question? Did you agree with the president today?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I agreed with the president today. I'm grateful for what the president said. And I thought it was a remarkable display of leadership, kind of damn the consequences. There may be consequences. I don't personally believe it.

But what Dana just said is very interesting, because we've seen it all day, almost starting from Mitt Romney when he started to hedge a little bit about how these issues are sort of very touching and sensitive for people. The Republicans and conservatives are actually afraid to take on the issue directly, because they know that there are gays and lesbians in Republican families, in conservative families, in Catholic families.

And they only want to talk about, you know, the process, about how -- they want to criticize the president for how he's done it or what he's done it or what his motives are, when this was, in essence, the most non-political thing that could have happened this week, and spontaneously happen this week. And yet they know that if they attack him directly on the issue, they come across looking prejudiced, bigoted and insensitive to a very important group of people and their families.

MORGAN: Let me take that point, Hilary, because I know, Elise, you've got a view about this. You're a Republican. What do you think of the way the Republicans are now positioning this?

ELISE JORDAN, FMR. DIR. OF COMMUNICATIONS, NATL. SECURITY COUN.: I think Republicans need to embrace the issue. I think that we're supposed to be the party of Lincoln, and we shouldn't be behind on this issue. And you look at it, it's really a generational thing.

I mean, Columbia did an amazing study in 2009. And if voters that are over 65 had their say, not a single state would have same-sex marriage. But if millennials had their say, only 12 states would ban it. So I think that if the Republicans want to appeal to the next generation of voters, they need to get -- they need to be on the right side of history.

MORGAN: Yes. I mean, Ben Smith, this is quite a play, isn't it, now? We now have an absolute clear new battleground away from the economy. Gay marriage, Barack Obama totally behind it, Mitt Romney totally against it. My sense is the generational aspect of this is very important. But, of course, it all depends on whether the youth will be galvanized to come out and vote, or whether the more older voters will be galvanized to come and back Romney over this.

What do you think?

BEN SMITH, "POLITICO": I think the youth were galvanized to take out their credit cards at least today. You saw Obama raised a million dollars the first 90 minutes after this announcement. I think there's going to be a level of energy that you haven't seen from Obama supporters.

But you know, while Elise is talking about the future, the present is that same-sex marriage is not universally popular. In fact, it's been on the ballot in like 30-some states, has failed every single place. When this is put to a straight ahead electoral test, Americans are rejecting same-sex marriage, at least for now.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: I'm going to jump in here, because we haven't got time. I want to jump in and just ask you all -- I want you all to try very, very hard and answer this question with one word, all right? Has the president been helped or hindered in his election chances by what he did today? Let me start with you, Ben, yes or no?

SMITH: I'd say hindered. I'm going with hindered.

MORGAN: Hindered, OK. Dana?

LOESCH: Hindered. And not all gays think exactly like everyone on the left. I think that is --

MORGAN: That is true. No, there are gays on the right. That's perfectly true. Elise?

JORDAN: Helped. I think that he showed principle. and that's something Barack Obama should do more often.

MORGAN: Hilary?

ROSEN: I think helped, no question, because Americans want their politicians to believe in themselves and in their communities. And this is authentic. This is where he believes. And this is what people actually want from a leader, is to stand up for what he believes in.

And that's not Mitt Romney, by the way.

(CROSS TALK)

SMITH: Exactly, if he thought this was a really easy win, he wouldn't have been forced into it by Joe Biden.

MORGAN: One thing it wasn't, I suspect, was an easy decision or he'd have done it ages ago. My panel, thank you all very much indeed.

Next, the man in black, Lewis Black, he's back. He's angry as ever. I can't wait to see what he thinks about all this. So Lewis Black after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS BLACK, COMEDIAN: Same-sex marriage, that's on page 50 of the things to worry about. That's like after are we eating too much garlic as a nation? My feeling is, I even go as far as if you found another species you liked, go for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Well, he certainly is another species. Lewis Black is back. He's angry. He's honest. He's hysterical. Lewis, how are you?

BLACK: It gets better all the time. This was a good day, I think. This was really -- this was something, finally. I mean, it's still going to be time -- we have to move ahead, but, you know, it's about -- I mean, what you just showed, I did that in 1996. I mean --

MORGAN: Yeah.

BLACK: I stopped really kind of in the act. I kind of talked about this a lot in my act. And about five years ago, it was like I had done all the material. What else do you have -- do we really have to go through all of this?

MORGAN: What I like, Lewis, about that -- what I liked about the clip was that you made this point that of all the things that people should feel really strongly about, why do so many Americans still, even now, 15 or 16 years after you said that -- why do they still get so exercised about a couple who are gay, love each other, who want to get married?

I mean, most heterosexuals are trying to get out of marriages. There you have gay people who want to get married. Why can't they?

BLACK: Well, you know, I don't know -- the gay couples I know have some of the longest relationships that I know. And also, I think that this thing we were talking about, you know, a lot of it is I think ignorance. I really believe that.

I come from -- I come out of theater, OK, so that's kind of -- you know, that's fruity. OK, we can call it fruity. I was so -- so I was around the gay community for a long, long, long time. And you start to begin to understand a whole lot. And the most -- the thing that they impart, the point is, you know, this isn't a choice. If it were a choice, I would understand them. If people wither going, boy, I want to be gay, and I want to get married, that would be one thing.

This is not a choice. People don't kind of go boy, you know what I want to be? I'd like to be ostracized, excluded. I'd like to be bullied. It's absurd. Why the state of North Carolina, where I spend time, felt a need having a law to write a Constitutional amendment -- why would you -- if you believed that marriage is between a man and a woman, wouldn't you -- do you really need to write it down as a Constitutional amendment?

Are you afraid that you're going to forget it? You need it on paper? It's unbelievable.

MORGAN: Lewis, you know, I had a feeling that today of all days I wouldn't actually need to ask you any questions. And you have confirmed that belief in spectacular style. Thank you as always. Come back on when we can spend a bit more time talking about other stuff. But I think you have perfectly encapsulated the entire debate, certainly the way I see it, and I think many Americans see it.

Lewis, as always, thank you.

BLACK: Thank you, Piers. I feel better now.

MORGAN: Lewis Black, got to love him. Coming up, Only in America, a defining day for same-sex marriage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: For tonight's Only in America, it's been an extraordinary day for America and for the world. Make no mistake, when the president of the United States publicly endorses gay marriage, the impact of those words reverberates to all corners of the planet.

This show has been at the center of this debate for the last 16 months. I have made no secret of my own belief that same-sex should be legalized, not just in America, but everywhere.

At the same time, I fully respect the views of those who, like the president, have wrestled with the dilemma, particularly those who, again like Barack Obama, have done so perhaps on religious grounds.

It's an issue that inspires passionate debate. Here are just some of the key moments tat we've aired on PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRK CAMERON, ACTOR: I believe that marriage was defined by God a long time ago. Marriage is almost as old as dirt. And it was defined in the Garden between Adam and Eve, one man, one woman, for life, until death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage. I don't think anyone else should either.

So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I don't.

CHARLIZE THERON, ACTRESS: It's a divine -- it's a divine right. , you know, when government starts to tell us who can love and what is good love, whether it's government or a government built on a certain religion, I do have a problem with that. I do.

MORGAN: You have five kids, right?

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Yes, I do.

MORGAN: What would you do if one of them came home and said, dad, I'm gay?

PERKINS: Well, we would have a conversation about it. I doubt that would happen with my children, as we are teaching them the right ways that they are to interact as human beings.

MORGAN: If he gets re-elected, where do you want to see a bit more grit?

CYNTHIA NIXON, ACTRESS: Well, I certainly would like to see a bit more grit in terms of gay issues, in terms of LGBT issues. I would certainly -- he has said repeatedly that he'll repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. And I think that that is something whose time has come. That is overdue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: From a sin that flouts God's will to a fundamental right that no government should ever deny, few issues in history have prompted such extraordinary polarizing opinion, apart of course from the Civil Rights Movement.

Today, a black American president declared his fulsome, unequivocal support for gay marriage. Both those things would have seemed utterly unthinkable in the '60s, which shows just how far America has come in not so long a period of time.

I salute all those who have helped it happen. As Lady Gaga just Tweeted, "it feels like the future and not the past."

That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts right now.