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Religion and Same-Sex Marriage; Are You Mom Enough?; Recent Jobless Claims under 400,000; President States he Personally Supports Gay Marriage; Gymnast Attempts Olympic Comeback

Aired May 10, 2012 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get to our STARTING POINT this morning. I'm moving on, gracefully.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, President Obama's historic stand is now the first American president ever to support same-sex marriage. This after years of saying that he was evolving on the issue. Here he is in an interview with ABC News.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


O'BRIEN: The nation is nearly split evenly with 50 percent saying they support same-sex marriage and 48 percent saying they oppose it, some analysts say the president's announcement could lose votes in a key demographic that supported him for years: African-American voters. That is debatable. Fewer African-Americans oppose the issue than before, only 39 percent of African-Americans support same-sex marriage.

Dr. Tony Evans is a senior pastor at the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and he joins us this morning.

Nice to see you. Thanks for being with us. Certainly appreciate it.

What was your reaction to the president's announcement?

DR. TONY EVANS, SENIOR PASTOR, OAK CLIFF BIBLE FELLOWSHIP: Well, I was disappointed. As a Christian and as a person who believes the Bible has established clearly what marriage is supposed to be between a man and woman, and because of the reality that the saga of a nation is really the saga of its family's written large. And when you redefine the family other than what the Creator intended when he established it, then you look at the devolution of civilization.

And so, I was disappointed and I hope that just as he changed it one way, there will be influences to reconsider and change it back the other way, because a Christian, the Bible should establish our authority, and not the culture or popular opinion.

O'BRIEN: As the leader of the nation, the law should establish the authority, correct? Certainly civil rights was fought on equal opportunity and equal rights under the law. It sound like you would be contradicting that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Separation of church and state.

EVANS: Well, separation of church and state should never mean separation of God and right. Since government is supposed to be an agency of God and since the nation was established, based on a theistic frame of reference, God should not be marginalized and thrown in the sideline if authority should not be negated. And we should not take human institutions that established which includes government and the foundation is the family and redefine at our whim.

Civil rights is not an issue here. Biblical justice is the equitable application of God's moral law in society.

When you talk about racial civil rights and combine that to redefinition of the family, God has to have a say so on both issues.

O'BRIEN: Far be it for me to argue with a pastor about God, so I'll preface this with what I'm going to say. Why not leave it to God, right? At the end of the day, you could leave it up to God and say under the laws of the country, we aim for equal protection and equal rights under the law.

For example, I would say the institution of marriage has changed over time. I was having this debate with Tony Perkins this morning. The institution has changed over time for women's rights certainly, as you well know, rights of slaves to get married, as you well know rights of blacks and whites to get married. So, it's changed a lot. Why not leave it up to God and let man get out of it?

EVANS: Because God has established what man is supposed to do and he expects man to do it his way and not a way independently of him. And when you do things independently of him, you have consequences you don't want to bear. And so, God is not just some ethereal spirit out there that is uninvolved. He's evolved through the system that he's established. Government is one of those systems and government is to respect his rule, not ignore it.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Pastor Evans, this Sunday, you will have a huge number of people in church for what I call one of the holy days, Mother's Day, because you have CME members, the Christmas, Mother's Day and Easter folks.

What do you expect reaction to be from pastors from the pulpit and what if a pastor doesn't speak to this issue? What will that say to their congregation especially African-American pastors?

EVANS: Well, absolutely. If we take the bible seriously, which all Christians should do, it should be the final authority. The bible is clear in Old Testament and New Testament, a man and a woman.

You ought to speak to this issue without involving partisan politics per se because the issue is a moral issue. It's a spiritual issue. It's a national issue because whoever owns the family owns the future.

And therefore pulpits should take this seriously and say on this issue the president is wrong. He has a lot of great things he's done. Great attributes. But on this issue, this is not the direction the country should be going in, and pulpits should not be apologizing for holding that banner very, very high.

O'BRIEN: Extrapolate that for me. What's the political implications to President Obama's re-election opportunities and chances among African-Americans? I mean, when you say someone is saying the president is wrong on this, what does that mean for African-American support?

EVANS: Well, I just finished my book, "How Christians Should Vote". When I wrote that book, I explain God doesn't ride backs of donkeys or elephants. So, there are strengths and witnesses in both parties.

But because the family is foundational institution upon which all other institutions are dependent for their ability to function properly, this issue needs to be addressed and I would say those who are committed to the Democratic Party ought to leverage influence to change if you have a Christian world view, the president or influence the president's view to be changed once, maybe he can change his mind twice, because this is nonnegotiable.

O'BRIEN: Would you advise people not to vote for him because of this?

EVANS: Well, what I don't do across my pulpit is endorse candidates. I deal with issues. I go through all issues and tell congregation what God says about all of the issues and then I let them go into the voting booth and cast their vote.

O'BRIEN: Would you personally say I disagree? I will not vote for President Obama?

EVANS: I will personally say I disagree. When I get in the voting booth, I'll cast my vote.

O'BRIEN: How do you think that's going to go with you get in the voting booth?

EVANS: I'll let you know when you bring me back on after I voted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is Mitt Romney looking to you? Mormon, how does that look to you?

EVANS: Well, I mean, obviously on the family issue if he's going to be consistent with his position, I would agree with that. I'm a Christian. I believe Jesus Christ is the savior. I believe the Bible is the absolute infallible word of God, not to be negotiated or tampered with. I believe that that should be the standard by which we make all of our decisions if you are a Christian.

O'BRIEN: All right. I think we agreed to have you back after you vote. Dr. Tony Evans, nice to talk to you this morning, sir. Appreciate it.

EVANS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We're going to have much more on the president's historic announcement ahead.

GOP groups are criticizing the president saying it's too little, too late. We're going to talk to Chris Barron. He's the cofounder of GOProud. Also, Democratic Jared Polis. He's one of only four openly gay members of Congress. He'll be joining us as well.

Time to get to Christine Romans. She's got a look at some of the other stories making news today.

Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again Soledad. Thank you.

In Syria, a pair of powerful explosions in the heart of Damascus.

One was captured on tape, more than 40 people were killed, 170 others injured. Syria blames attacks on anti-government terrorists and an opposition group claims Syria's intelligence agency was killed in the blast.

Kidnapping and murder suspect Adam Mayes on the fast track to the top of the FBI's list of 10 most wanted fugitives. Authorities believe he's on the run with two young girls, 12-year-old Alexandria Bain and her 8-year-old Kyliyah. Mayes is accused of killing their mother and their oldest sister.

There's now a $175,000 reward for information leading to Mayes' arrest and the girls. These two little girls on their screen, their rescue.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending next week G-8 summit of world leaders in Camp David, Maryland. Putin was just inaugurated and says he has to finalize cabinet appointments to Russia's new government. His cancellation is seen as another sign of a strained relationship with President Obama.

It seems no one can explain why a toddler was ordered off a JetBlue flight Tuesday at Ft. Lauderdale airport. There she is, 18- year-old Rihanna (ph). She doesn't look like a terrorist but she and her parents were removed from their New Jersey-bound flight and detained for 30 minutes.

The little girl's parents don't want to be identified. They are Middle Eastern and despite being U.S. citizens they believe they were profiled by the TSA.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said, well, it's not you or your husband, your daughter was flagged as no fly. I said, excuse me?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It made no sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would an 18-month-child be on a no-fly list?


ROMANS: The TSA claims that JetBlue made the call to remove little Rihanna. JetBlue insists it was the TSA's decision. The family says they're still waiting for an explanation and they would like an apology.

The concussion crisis is getting worse is kids sports, and girls are being affected in alarming rate. Studies show girls report nearly twice as many concussions as boys in the sports they both play, and girls who play soccer are getting hit the worst. Girls soccer is now only second to football in the number of concussions reported.

Injuries often happen when players head the ball. They use their heads to hit the ball and collide with other players. Doctors say girls are especially vulnerable to concussions because they have weaker neck than boys.

All right. It's been called mommy porn. The book "Fifty Shades of Grey," a novel about bondage, wild sex and love is, now three states, Wisconsin, Georgia, Florida, has decided it's too steamy for the library.

A library in Brevard County, Florida, had to send out 200 notices to people on a waiting list for the book when it pulled the novel.

I guess they'll have to go to Amazon -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: That's right. And you can read it with one of those readers so no one has to know that you're reading steamy stuff.


O'BRIEN: See, I don't know what you're talking about. I'm just saying, I only read books for small children. That's the only reading I do in my personal time.

MARTIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: "Good Night Moon."

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: are you a bad mom? If you don't spend every second catering to your baby, are you a bad mom? "TIME" magazine is exploring the controversial idea of attachment parenting. That would be the controversial cover on attachment parenting that Will is holding up for us.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Is that controversial enough for you?

O'BRIEN: Yes, it is. It is.

Also Dee Snider does Broadway as front man of Twisted Sisters, going to talk about his new twist on Broadway.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: That's my playlist. The Rolling Stones. I had to pay money for it but I finally got it.

This morning , we're talking about what is an age old battle between husbands and wives, and mothers and daughters, how do you parent your kid?

This week, "TIME" magazine tackles the argument in a provocative cover story. It's called, "Are You Mom Enough?" And they look at attachment parenting. And on the cover is a woman who clearly who has a kid who's got to be 3 years old who is attached to nursing by his mom. They talk specifically baby guru, Dr. Sears, who emphasizes the baby Bs -- birth bonding, breastfeeding, baby wearing, bedding close to the baby.

That style is not without controversy. Belinda Luscombe is the editor at large of "Time" magazine, a mother as well. Did you breastfeed your kid until he was three years old like the mom on the cover is doing?

BELINDA LUSCOMBE, EDITOR AT LARGE, TIME: No. No. I have no problem if that is somebody's choice, but that was not going to be something I could manage.

O'BRIEN: The question you have on the cover is, are you mom enough? And I think it's sort of a version of, are you a bad mom, which is a question that women everywhere have been grappling with forever. Why is attachment parenting so controversial? What exactly is it?

LUSCOMBE: Attachment parenting, as you explained, is a type of parenting that really responds very much to the child rather than the mother's needs. This is what, you know, one argument would say. So, the child is never left to cry. If the child cries, you must pick it up straight away -- cried out. They don't believe --

O'BRIEN: No Ferber.

LUSCOMBE: No Ferber. No putting the baby on a schedule. The baby sets the schedule. They encourage breastfeeding. They encourage co-sleeping. You sleep with the baby or babies if you have them. The wearing of the baby all the time.

O'BRIEN: Why is this so controversial? All those things sound like perfectly fine if it's somebody's choice.

LUSCOMBE: Well, I think we might find some controversy if we ask the men about this.

MARTIN: No, no, no. I've seen dads -- first of all, this (INAUDIBLE). I've seen dads same way who go along with that.

O'BRIEN: Breastfeeding?

MARTIN: No, not the breastfeeding part.


MARTIN: The breastfeeding part, but in terms of letting the child dictate in terms of absolutely sleeping in the bed. You know, I'm not going to name names, but let's say I have the checks of people like look (ph) that's the kid. Go to your room. And because -- and so, what happens is that child then grows up and becomes four, five, six, and there's like a little adult, and they're running the parents.

LUSCOMBE: That may be happening in some cases. There is really no good science on how much you should let your child cry. Obviously, you should not make your child cry forever. Nobody is saying that. There've been studies among orphans in child that left alone.

But there is -- the science is really out on whether attachment parenting which is really something the mothers do because it makes them feel like very bonded to their child and how much it's better for the kid. And that's what the story explains.

But, it has to be said that this style of parenting has had an enormous influence in the last 10, 20 years. It's very hard to have not come across this kind of attachment.

O'BRIEN: Dee, did your wife do attachment parenting?

SNIDER: I'm married 30 years with four kids. My wife is very dedicated to our kids. She gave up her career for them, but there's a limit.

MARTIN: That's right.

SNIDER: And there's times for them to go to their room. She's a great mom. She hammered me with baby, baby, baby, baby. Those are four Bs in my life.


SNIDER: And I know the baby comes first, but she draws a line at certain points.

O'BRIEN: But Dee raises an interesting point when he was saying that your wife gave up her career from the article, is attachment parenting a misogynous plot to take women out of the workplace and put them back in the home full time or is it a way to encourage mothers and babies to form loving bonds which signs that shown is beneficial to long-term emotional health and well-being? This is written by Kate Piccard (ph), the author.

LUSCOMBE: Right. You know, my feeling on this is that we could not have attachment parenting if we hadn't first had feminism, because we have been brought up as women to find our own paths, to get really educated, to overdeliver. Now, if you want to be in your position, Soledad, if you want to be --


LUSCOMBE: You need to overdeliver. You need to work harder at what you do and be better at it. And I think women have brought all that energy and engagement in education said I'm going to be the mother of all mothers, especially if I'm giving up, you know, my job and whatever. I am going to mother the heck out of this kid. And I think that's part of what it is.

O'BRIEN: How much of this, though, is just a backlash to how we were raised, right? I mean, most of the people, I would guess around this table, are parents were basically like, hey, go out and play, don't come back in the house. Go sit in front of the TV or go out, come back at dinnertime. We'll call you. Stay out of trouble.

SNIDER: Yes. Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: So, isn't it just a backlash like I was raised this way, and now, I'm going to raise my kids the opposite of that. I'm sure my children will raise their kids the opposite of that.

LUSCOMBE: No, I think it's probably that, but I think there's also that we are smarter about raising kids. It turns out that plunking your kid in front of the TV for six hours a day is not good for them. It's not good for their body, it's not good for their brain.

It turns out that smoking when you're pregnant, not good for you. That's all the things we stopped doing. So, I think we are more educated, has the pendulum swung too far. That's the issue.


CAIN: There are good things in this article and in this concept such as breastfeeding. It has certain benefits to a child's life. This has evolved into the point where, as you described, the child is what is in charge. The child's schedule and Roland point out, that evolves into a child that also has no discipline. This is --

O'BRIEN: I don't know that that's true. I think strapping a kid to you is the way it is done in many countries. You take your baby. You put them in a sling and you drag them around everywhere you go. That's not a child who's in charge necessarily.

That is taking the kid who is -- who you're not going to say, I'm not going to leave my house because I'm putting them down for a nap. Sometimes, the kid on a schedule is more in charge than the kid who you just throw in the baby --


MARTIN: That's a whole different deal. That's a whole different deal.

O'BRIEN: If the kid is on the schedule, the mom sets the schedule.

MARTIN: That's the point. The mom sets the schedule. And so --

O'BRIEN: You can't move until the kid wakes up from a nap.

MARTIN: I'm telling you, you got some folks out of here who need to let go. And you're putting (ph) about we're smarter raising kids. I'm sorry. I've seen some people education does not mean smarter. A lot of old school parents do a better job that raising even people's kids today because we're letting folks do whatever they want.

O'BRIEN: Belinda Luscombe is editor at large at "Time" magazine. Nice to talk to you.

LUSCOMBE: So much fun to be here.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk to Dee Snider about his new project that takes him to Broadway, as he mentioned, also dad of four kids, married 30 years.


O'BRIEN: And we'll talk about why tanning mom's infamous look could start fading fast. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.



O'BRIEN: Yes. We're mad. We're not going to take it anymore.

SNIDER: That worked out awesome, I got to tell you.


MARTIN: Do you know how many Black votes are crazy hair band fans because of MTV?

O'BRIEN: Yes, of course --

SNIDER: I do know.

MARTIN: I tweeted this one day. They were like, oh yes, Sister Christie (ph) and Twister Sister (ph) going OK.

O'BRIEN: Dee Snider has been with our panel all morning, but we want to talk now about his new book which is called "Shut Up and Give Me The Mic." I say that all the time. It works for me. And also, his new CD which called "Dee Does Broadway." And if you look who's singing with him in the CD, Clay Aiken, Patti LuPone, Cyndi Lauper, Bebe Neuwirth. Let's play a little clip.




O'BRIEN: Why do -- you don't think of a guy who was in a big all hair band doing Broadway with Patti LuPone.

SNIDER: You know what? "Dee Does Broadway" are three words I never thought I hear in sequence, actually.


SNIDER: But after I did a run on Broadway in "Rock of Ages" about a year or so ago, and it reconnected me with the Broadway tunes that are being played in my house my whole life, now I didn't have two (ph) dads, now, there's anything wrong with it, but I was always brought to shows when I was a kid. And I said, you know what, I always heard rock in these things. I'm going to bring it out.

O'BRIEN: You write in this book -- I mean, it's a great book, I think, for people who just want inspiration like how to get through life, because you've had this incredible longevity that a lot of people in your position do not have. Yes, the same wife. You were talking about being married for 30 years. You got four kids, all good, normal kids who do not appear on front page of a "National Enquirer."

SNIDER: Of course. I'm just saying. Go ahead.

O'BRIEN: So, how did you do it, I guess, is the question?

SNIDER: You know, first of all, that wife point was important. I met 36 years ago, and for some moment (ph), I realized that hanging onto this incredible woman was a smart thing to do. So, she has sort of kept me in line and been by my side through everything. This book is a love story in a lot of ways, as well. My favorite review, so far -- and by the way, I wrote every word myself which is unusual --

O'BRIEN: You're sober enough to be able to write that --

SNIDER: Yes. I never did drugs and never drank. Sorry, I disappointed you, kids, but --

MARTIN: So, you remember all the story?

SNIDER: Yes. I remember everything. They said you don't have to be in Twisted Sister or Dee Snider to get something out of this book.

O'BRIEN: It has a lot of life lessons. I mean, I really thought it was going to be sort of a walk through the hair band, and it's really a walk through how to navigate the ups and downs of life and come out well on the other side. You write a lot about sort of disappointment and how you manage it.

There was a time when you were on the top and then you're on the bottom because Grunge came in and kind of knocked the band out. What was that like?

SNIDER: That was like -- imagine you studied a form of medicine they found a cure for. OK? So, the 1990s come along, and the grunge hits and nobody wants anything to do with what I have practiced my whole life. And I'm literally in a parking lot (INAUDIBLE) cars, so my wife can do makeup and hair on weekends for weddings, and it was that --


SNIDER: It was that bad. And I'm running from security in the parking lot because I'm afraid they're going to recognize who I am. You know, it's like (ph) Jay Leno of heavy metal, you know?


SNIDER: So you know, and thankfully, I recovered from that, but I thought sharing a story in its own way, you don't have to be a rock star to identify with messing up and trying to pick yourself up and start over.

O'BRIEN: And making it and sustaining it because they're two very different things.

SNIDER: Oh, yes. Yes. Life is a journey and it's a struggle.

O'BRIEN: Great book. I loved it.

MARTIN: Not all artists always talk about that. How do you deal with being down and trying to --

O'BRIEN: And making it, right, is a very different opportunity.

CAIN: We've been talking about this on this show for weeks now in regards to professional athletes.

O'BRIEN: Right, right. And I think that they're really, really correlated.

MARTIN: Going from the van to the limo back to the van.


SNIDER: Billy Joel said rich and famous is tough. Poor and famous is really tough.

MARTIN: Poor is tough.



O'BRIEN: We have to take a short break.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we're going to take a look at the jobless numbers for the week set to be released any moment now. We're going to bring those to you live along with what they mean for the economy, of course.

And President Obama reacts for the first time to Governor Mitt Romney taking credit for rescuing the big American auto companies. We'll tell you why the president saying it's another Etch-a-Sketch moment. Remember, that was first said on our show. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Jobless numbers are just in. Let's get to Christine for analysis president.

ROMANS: Thanks, Soledad. Just in, weekly jobless claims 367,000 claims filed for the first time last week. That's down 1,000 from the week before. We want to see this number below 400,000 because that shows a labor market that's improving. And futures are up right now suggesting the stock market could open higher.

The prosecution in the corruption trial of John Edwards will rest its case today without calling the former senator's mistress, Rielle Hunter to the stand. Yesterday a close friend of Elizabeth Edwards testified. She talked about her final days battling breast cancer and how Elizabeth Edwards lamented the fact she would be dying alone.

President Obama is heading west this morning to collect a boatload of campaign cash after two fundraisers in Seattle. The president heads to a reception at actor George Clooney's home. And 150 donors will be there paying $40,000 for the privilege. The event is expected to generate $15 million in campaign contributions, more than Mitt Romney has ever raised in a single month.

And she's the well done gift that keeps on giving. According the TMZ several tanning salons surrounding her New Jersey home have banned tan mom from their premises, and now some New Jersey papers are reporting the state department of health is getting involved as well. Some have even posted pictures of her. And now the inspiration behind the new tan mom action figure, an action figure from a company called hero builders. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: And then that tan is going to fade and everyone will leave her alone at some point.

ROMANS: I don't know.

(CROSSTALK) O'BRIEN: Roland bringing it back to Roland.

DEE SNIDER, SINGER: I think she's trying to look like a baseball glove.


O'BRIEN: At some point we're going to let this poor woman off the hook and move off her story.

Let's talk about president Obama with that bold announcement supporting marriage for same-sex couples. Here's what he said.


OBAMA: At a certain point I 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.


O'BRIEN: The most recent poll shows that 50 percent of Americans agree with the president that same-sex marriages should be legal, 48 percent say no, they should not be legal.

Joining us this morning Democratic Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado. He's one of only four gay members of Congress. And Chris Barron is the cofounder of GOProud, a GOP organization. Nice to see you gentlemen. Thank you for being with us. Let's begin with you, Congressman Polis, if you don't mind. What's your reaction to the president's announcement?

REP. JARED POLIS, (D) COLORADO: It's welcome news frankly. The president, like so many American families, came to the recognition that gay and lesbian Americans ought to be able to have committed relationships and have public recognition of those committed relationships and same rights and responsibilities of marriage as other Americans.

O'BRIEN: He's called it an evolution. Do you think that's an accurate way to put it? Or maybe a better question is, is it a political evolution looking at poll numbers and looks maybe at younger voters who support gay marriage overwhelmingly, or is it a personal evolution as he seemed to tell robin Roberts?

POLIS: This is a very personal question. People particularly of President Obama's generation and generation ahead of him really wrestle with this question internally. Most Americans want to be fair, treat people fairly, they also grew up and many people grew up in faith traditions which don't allow gay marriage within that tradition. So it's just a question of to what extent do we let separate faiths decide who gets married and each faith has a prerogative to do that but from government perspective, those marriages need to be counted equally under federal law and I'm thrilled the president came to that same conclusion. O'BRIEN: When you look at the poll numbers, you might say there's a slight advantage for those who support same-sex marriage, but when you actually look at states where they put in a ban or a definition of a marriage is between a man and a woman, that's an overwhelming number of states -- 30 states between, 30 and 32 states are defining it that way. So I guess I would ask you to explain what seems to be a contradiction in those numbers.

POLIS: Those of us in favor of legal acceptance of gays and lesbian marrying have to explain that doesn't mean your religious will sanctify gay marriage. We don't have that in the catholic faith. We don't have that. But at the same time, more and more people are willing to accept that before the law they should be treated equally. And just as for instance Catholics can't divorce within the faith and remarry within the faith, nor will they be able to get married to a person of the same-sex within the faith, other Americans will. And I think everybody ought to be able to marry who they love. I hope that's common sense to most Americans and I'm glad the president agrees.

O'BRIEN: The president left a little bit of an out as he was in his interview with Robin Roberts. He said this is a personal decision that in fact he believes it should be left up to the states, those 30 plus states I was just talking about. Isn't that a contradiction also in and of itself? Either something is fair and moral or something is not. Why should states get to decide?

POLIS: States are where the definition of marriage resides. In fact, the only federal definition of marriage is limiting one, the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents states that allow gays and lesbians to get married to be counted for federal purposes. President Obama has supported the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. But no one is talking about the federal government defining marriage. It's certainly up to each state how to do that.

O'BRIEN: I want to bring in Chris Barron. He's the co-founder of Go Proud, a gay conservative, growing up in North Carolina where they just voted in that ban on same-sex marriage. What's your reaction to what the president had to say?

CHRIS BARRON, CO-FOUNDER, GOPROUD: A couple things. One, I think that the president's decision is a good one. But I think it's a half-step. For folks whose number one issue is marriage equality, they need to understand that this is a half-step. Unlike other presidential candidates like New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the president thinks that marriage rights, civil rights, should be left up to a vote of the people.

And, look, we've been hearing from gay marriage advocates for a long time that it was fundamentally unfair to put people's civil rights up for a vote. And 24 hours after the president made this decision, we have congressman coming out here justifying that position. You can't have it both ways. Either it's right to put people's civil rights up for a vote or it isn't.

O'BRIEN: So then where do you stand on this issue as a gay man? I would assume you would support gay marriage, do you?

BARRON: Yes, I'm married. I'm married here under the laws of the District of Columbia. I've been fortunate to be married for two years now.

O'BRIEN: So as a conservative, do you support Mitt Romney's whose position is he does not support same-sex marriage?

BARRON: I do not.

O'BRIEN: So you would vote for President Obama in the election?

BARRON: I wouldn't. I'll be supporting New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. He's the only candidate in this race that's been 100 percent on marriage equality this entire time. By the way, he didn't have to get dragged kicking and screaming there. This was a political process for the president. It was an overtly political process for the president. I think it's been cynical and a good step, but let's not pretend it's not what it overtly political.

O'BRIEN: Others that have talked to me this morning say it was a personal decision framed by conversations with his wife, framed by conversations with his daughters who have friends whose parents are gay married couples. Why do you say it's overtly political decision? What evidence do you have about it?

BARRON: In 1996 he said he was for same-sex marriage when he thought it was a political winner for him. In 2008 when he thought it was a political winner to be against same-sex marriage, he was against it.

Now Biden is out there, Arne Duncan is out there, apparently the last person in the White House who was for marriage equality was the president. I think he made a political calculation that he simply couldn't tamp it down. His left wing base has been pressuring him on this for months if not years on this issue. I think he had to do this.

Like I said, it's a good step but let's not pretend it's not political. Of course he's going to come out and say it's personal. He won't come out on TV and say I'm for this because I had no choice. It's purely political. It's a ploy for votes.

O'BRIEN: Like Etch-a-Sketch you would like to hate to reveal what he knows how politics really works. So then how would you advise your colleagues in the Republican Party to vote?

BARRON: If anybody whose number one issue is marriage equality, they should vote for New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson hands down. He's the only one that's been there all along. To my friends in the Republican Party, I would say you need to get with it. The reality is that the mainstream America is there on civil unions and they are there on marriage equality. We need leaders in the Republican Party who will stand up and say, you know what, let's focus on jobs and the economy and let's recognize that people who are in loving, committed relationships ought to have recognition. It's good for couples. It's good for America.

O'BRIEN: Chris Barron joining thus morning and Congressman Jared Polis joining us. Thank you, gentlemen, appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, President Obama responds for the first time to Governor Mitt Romney taking credit for the auto industry's recovery. Why he says -- the president says it's another Romney etch-a-sketch moment.

And America's sweetheart from four summers ago is training to return to the summer Olympics, but she's 20 now. Shawn Johnson is one of the older gymnasts at age 20. We'll talk to her live coming up. You're watching STARTING POINT.


O'BRIEN: President Obama for the very first time responds to Mitt Romney's claim -- it's ok.

SNIDER: I'm an amateur, it's all right.

O'BRIEN: All right ok, first day on the panel. I'll give you a pass.

Teleprompter, would you roll back down so I can start at the beginning.

SNIDER: My chair has wheels.

O'BRIEN: Here we go. So that we can wheel you out if we need to.

President Obama for the first time responding to Mitt Romney's claim that he deserves the credit for bringing the U.S. auto industry back from the brink. Here's what he -- Governor Romney said a little bit earlier this week.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The auto companies needed go through bankruptcy before the government helped and frankly that's finally what the President did. He finally took them through bankruptcy and that was the right course. I argued for it from the very beginning.

And finally when that was done and help was given, the companies got back on their feet. So I'll -- I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that -- that this industry has come back.


O'BRIEN: I was kind of following him fine until that last line. "I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that the industry came back." President Obama responded on "Good Morning America" this morning. Listen.


ROBIN ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Mitt Romney just recently said that he deserves the credit for revival of the U.S. auto industry. How do you respond to that?

OBAMA: Well you know I think this is one of his Etch-a-Sketch moments. I don't think anybody takes that seriously. People remember his position, which was let's let Detroit go bankrupt so had we followed his advice at that time, GM and Chrysler would have gone under and we would have lost probably a million jobs throughout the Midwest.


O'BRIEN: Look, I'm co-anchoring with Robin Roberts this morning. She was breaking news left and right. You know it's an interesting -- I wonder if he's going to have any impact at all as a -- let's say you're a typical voter who has been working on an album and working on --

SNIDER: Yes who didn't know about what an etch-a-sketch moment was, yes, go.

O'BRIEN: Yes so do these back and forth are they -- are they interesting to you assuming he's not a Washington, D.C. political guy?

SNIDER: I just my -- I just shake my head. I mean, you know Vice President Gore invented the Internet too. I mean, you know these people take credit for things that if they think it will win them some favor with some portion of the public, they'll take credit. But you know --

O'BRIEN: Does it work?

MARTIN: I'll say this here -- that was debunked. He never said that.


MARTIN: And that was spread, a whole a bunch of lies, he spread about Al Gore and Internet. So just factual.

But here's the deal, it's going to matter in Michigan and you've seen the response. Again the presidential elections are state by state elections. Folks in Michigan are sitting here going seriously? You're taking credit for this when you were criticizing us. It's not going well in that particular state.

O'BRIEN: It might be a little tougher.

All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, she won four medals in Beijing and now she's trying to make it to the London Olympics. Gymnast Shawn Johnson will join us up next. From her playlist "The Olympic Spirit". I love this song, Shawn. It's legendary composer John Williams, of course.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Oh let the flames begin. The Olympic torch is now lit. It happened just hours ago in a very dramatic ceremony among the ancient ruins of Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics. It's going to take an eight-day tour of Greece on a 70 day, 8,000 mile journey through the U.K. and opening ceremonies will begin on July 27th.

2008 Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson is hoping for another shot at gold this summer in London. You probably remember her from the Beijing games where she won three silvers and a gold medal. Take a look back at a video that's called "Raising an Olympian" which features Shawn and her mom, Terry.


SHAWN JOHNSON, OLYMPIAN: I had a terrible warm up and terrible day. I was sick, I was tired. I found some little ounce of energy and spark in me. Went up for my -- my routine.

Further on when I found in when they're all standing up, a little cry.

TERRY JOHNSON, MOTHER OF SHAWN JOHNSON: It was just more emotion than I've ever felt and couldn't hold it back.


O'BRIEN: Her parents were crying. Shawn now is 20 years old and she facing some tough competition from younger gymnasts for even fewer spots that are available on the team. Also she has a very serious knee injuries. Well she joins us this morning to talk about all that. Nice to see you.

It's so emotional to watch you in that clip looking back at that routine in Beijing. Tell me the difference between being 16 and being 20 for a woman who is a gymnast at the Olympic level that -- that you are. Physically, how much harder is it for you?

S. JOHNSON: You know, a lot of people laugh because it's only 16 and 20.


O'BRIEN: I'm one of them. Yes.

S. JOHNSON: -- the difference -- yes, the difference is extreme. I mean, the amount of beating our body takes on a daily basis especially in the all around you know by the time we're 20 our bodies are you know like 50 years old.

So the recovery time is a lot harder. The time you spend in the gym can't be as much. And you know you are a lot more prone to injury. So it's a -- it's a fine balance trying to figure out how much to train and how much rest to take.

So this time around has been a big learning experience for me. And not quite as powerful and as energetic as I was when I was 15 or 16 years old but I have the experience behind me so hopefully that's playing to my favor.

O'BRIEN: Yes wait until you get to 45. You'll discover all that energy is completely gone. Let's me ask you about your injury. Because you hurt your knee. What do you think your -- your chances are for the team?

S. JOHNSON: Honestly, I couldn't tell you. You know this time around is completely different. It's no longer based on the top two all arounders or by score. We only have five spots this time. So it's really a puzzle. Each individual piece has specific requirements and needs that need to be fulfilled.

So it's just about trying to fit into one of those spots and after my knee and everything, you know, it's just trying to cater my -- my training and everything around fitting into one spot.

But honestly, it's so up in the air. I could have told you in 2008 I had a really good shot and I could kind of guarantee I would be in one place or another but this time around I have no idea.

O'BRIEN: We showed some clips of your mom and you. I want to play a little tiny clip where your mom talks -- you talk to her about your injury. Let's play that.


JOHNSON: What if this injury doesn't allow me to ever do a black flip again or run down the vault runway.

Uf1: I think bad things happen for a reason.

JOHNSON: Whether you are skiing or walking on the sidewalk, it was supposed to happen.


O'BRIEN: How much of a support has your mom been in all of this?

JOHNSON: My mom has played one of the biggest roles in my entire career and life and she's been my biggest fan, supporter, cheerleader, best friend and, of course, mom. She's gotten me through the high times and also low times and couldn't have made it here without her.

O'BRIEN: Well, we're wishing you the very best of luck. Shawn Johnson, my daughters are so excited that I get to talk to you today. They're budding gymnasts as well and they really look up to you. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it. And good luck to you.

"End Point" is up next with our panel.


O'BRIEN: "End Point" this morning goes to Dee Snider.

SNIDER: Yes, well I'm just taking with that young gymnast talking. Yes, at 20, sorry she almost seemed to have a defeatist attitude built in, in society. I reflect on that. People are constantly just anticipating their demise.

And throughout my career I've not allowed myself to ever think the end was nigh. Even when I was flat on my back, down and out, I would not accept that as the end zone there.

O'BRIEN: Well, I hope she listens to you because I would love to see her in another Olympic Games.

SNIDER: You can do it.

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes.

MARTIN: No back flipping.

O'BRIEN: Coming up tomorrow -- make sure you roll on that if he does that.

Coming up tomorrow on starting point, supermodel turned activist, Christy Turlington Burns will be joining us.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello starts right now. I'll see everybody tomorrow morning.

Hey Carol.