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Same-sex Marriage at Turning Point; How San Francisco Will Handle Gay Marriage if Supreme Court Doesn't Hear Case; Hearing for Army Private Bradley Manning; Uncle Sam Hits the Jackpot Too; Rain, Winds Batter West Coast.

Aired November 30, 2012 - 11:30   ET


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Thank you for joining us and updating us and telling us your story.

Ashleigh, these are the stories that we'll hear on Sunday, at the Shrine Auditorium 6:00. Anderson Cooper does a great job. I call it a four-tissue event, but they are tears of joy.


9:00 p.m. eastern, and 8:00 our pre-show.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm just proud to breathe the same air as someone like Marie.

Nischelle Thank you. It's great. Great to hear. And it's a great story. Great event.

Everybody, make sure you can hear more of Marie's story as well by tuning in to "CNN Heroes, Sharing the Spotlight," this Sunday night 8:00 p.m. eastern. And then following that, 9:00 p.m. eastern, it's the big event, "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute."



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have never gone wrong when we expanded rights and responsibilities to everybody.


BANFIELD: May 14, 2012, President Obama cutting to the heart of his decision to openly back marriage equality. It's been a pretty pivotal year in the long and emotional battle over same-sex unions. And this day could be quite a pivotal day because today the Supreme Court, the ultimate decider of rights and rules in America, is deciding whether it is finally time to take a stand on gender-based marriage law and just how big a stand to take. The country, of course, is divided. Right now, 30 states have their own constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. But nine states plus the District of Columbia allow men to marry men and women to marry women. That number grew by three alone just this month. Those were voter referendums during the election. Nationwide exit polls show slightly more voters than not say same-sex marriages should be legal. You see it there. 49 percent say yes. 46 percent say no. Which, in theory, has absolutely no bearing essentially on anything that the high court decides, or does it? We may not actually even find out until Monday whether the justices will decide to take the plunge or not into this latest series of cases.

And while we wait, it gives us an option for a couple of questions to our justice correspondent, Joe Johns, who is smarter than many on this topic.


Here's how I want you to try to help navigate through the very sticky wicket. It's very, very complex stuff. We have two essential cases as I see it that the Supreme Court can decide to either rule on or not, the Defense of Marriage Act and then, of course, the Proposition 8 in California. The overview on both of those and the significance of either ruling or not.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. You know, they could also decide not to decide, which is an important thing you have to say, too.


JOHNS: But, you're right. One of the big questions here is the parameters of any decision. If the court decides to take a same-sex marriage case, Ashleigh, it has options on how to decide. It can rule very narrowly, perhaps saying whether same-sex couples are entitled to certain benefits or not. Could also make a sweeping ruling on equal protection grounds, weighing in to whether the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 violates fundamental rights by discriminating against same-sex couples. That would be a sweeping ruling. Or in the case of Proposition 8, it could just take up the question of whether a state constitutional right can be taken away once it's been granted. Or they could decide not to do anything, a bunch of different bites of the apple that tell us how the justices think -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Some of the experts that watch it pretty closely, said if the court, if the high court wanted to just step in and put a toe into the water of this massive national debate, they may consider to look at DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the particular case that has reached its chambers, and that case effectively is about benefits to couples --

JOHNS: Right.

BANFIELD: -- who are already married and the federal recognition of such benefits, that it's not effectively going to change anything in the law of the land when it comes to people who want to gay marry, correct?

JOHNS: Absolutely. And I have to tell you, there are actually 10 different cases, about eight of those have to do with DOMA, and underlying all of that is that question of benefits. People don't realize that when you get married, there are a whole bunch of financial things that happen just because you're married. And that right now happens more often for, you know, male and female marriages as opposed to same-sex marriages because there are certain states that follow DOMA that say, no, you don't get the same benefits. You have a different tax structure because in these states we're going to treat you as single because you're, you know, same-sex and you're married. It's very complex and that's, you know, something the court eventually is very likely to have to decide.

BANFIELD: Well, then, less myopic you would think the Prop 8 challenge. And just to sort of set that stage, again, because, again, it is very complex, California, and the voters there saying Prop 8 means you cannot gay marry here. That was challenged at the trial level, and the judge said wrong, it's not fair. That went to the appellate level in the Ninth Circuit and the judge said wrong. Now it's going to the justices. They have the option to say, we're not touching it. That means the law of California means you can marry anyone you want. Or we are touching it, and we may rule either way. If they rule that gay marriage is legal in California, what are the implications for all of the other states, Joe?

JOHNS: Well, it's the largest state in the country, and, of course, that could be huge implications for other states. But you also have to remember, the court has the ability to say the case we're deciding only applies in this one instance. So, we're really talking about hypotheticals here. And there are million different ways this court could decide this case. And as we know just from the health care case, this is a very unpredictable Supreme Court. It's very difficult to figure out what they're going to do, you know, with that 5-4 split that happens from time to time.

BANFIELD: So, you're on duty all day, all night, all through the weekend, Joe Johns, because this is big stuff. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Sorting through some very complex stuff. So, here's the deal if those justices walk away from Prop 8 and say, we refuse to hear this case, effectively, that means it is once again legal in California to get married, almost immediately.

So, what do you think it's like at the courthouse in San Francisco? How do you think they are preparing for the, oh, I don't know, hundred thousand or so estimated gay couples, same-sex couples in that state? Going to talk to someone who knows all too well what they're doing and that they're prepping for.


BANFIELD: So, as we went to break, we posed the question what if the Supreme Court decides not to take up the case of Proposition 8 in California. That will effectively mean it is legal to get married to anyone you want, male/female, female/female, male/male in California, which could also mean a rush at the courthouse in cities like San Francisco.

And the San Francisco city attorney, Dennis Herrera, knows that. He actually even filed the very first lawsuit that led to the marriage equality in that nation -- in the nation's most populous state, California. It also led to the stay, which means nothing's been going on for quite some time in that state. He joins me live on the phone.

So, Dennis, I just want to ask you, before we get to sort of the technicalities of what today can mean, the logistics of what this could mean, there are thousands and thousands of people who may want to get married Monday. And how is San Francisco's courthouse going to handle that?

DENNIS HERRERA, SAN FRANCISCO CITY ATTORNEY (voice-over): Well, Ashleigh, we have a lot of experiences, some might recall, with handling large crowds back in February of 2004. There were tremendous lines for a month-long period here at city hall. But -- so we have experience with it. We've been working very closely with the clerk's office, and while there's a great deal of anticipation about what the possibilities are, we've been taking steps to deal with the practicalities. Just a couple days ago, I sent a letter to the ninth circuit court of appeals in the event that the Supreme Court denies stay for them to give us a 24 hours' notice about when they might lift the stay so we can prepare to have people deputized, work closely with our clerk's office, the sheriff's department, the police department from a public safety perspective to make sure we have all the logistics in place to handle what would be a momentous and very celebratory event.

BANFIELD: It could also be the other thing you're preparing for, too, and that could be a lot of protests and a lot of angry people I'm assuming outside that courthouse. Have you got two sort of separate plans of attack?

HERRERA: Yes, we do. You have to realize that the Supreme Court of California, it's -- its chambers are directly across the street from city hall, so at virtually every -- and the ninth circuit is only a block away. So, every time we've had a momentous marriage equality case or hearing, we've had to deal both with the celebration and with the protests. And we work very, very closely with our police department and sheriff's department and other law enforcement authorities to make sure they're fully apprised of the legal goings-on so they can do their job and making sure they are keeping the peace and that's something we're doing here as we await to see what the Supreme Court will do.

BANFIELD: We started off the segment before you with a statistic, it was a poll taken during all of our election polling and the national polls suggest that 49 percent of Americans are now in favor of legalizing gay marriage, while 46 percent are still opposed. It was not like that, or at least those who, you know, voted in the referendum in your state for Prop 8, the majority of Californians said they didn't want that to happen in your state. They did not want gay marriage in your state. But that was, what, eight years ago. Do you think things have changed now? Do you think if that referendum were, again, to go to the people the numbers would be different? There would be a different outcome?

HERRERA: Absolutely, I do. Let's really take a look back and look where we've gone in 12 years. Prop 22 in the year 2000, here in California, that defined marriage as between -- existing only between a man and a woman, that was 60-40, OK? Then in 2008, when this was on the ballot, it was 51-49 -- or 52-48 in favor of Proposition 8. Yet, I think that what we've been doing is, once you get to the hearts and minds and educate people, you change people's minds. And when they see their neighbors sharing life together, they understand that same- sex couples, you know, the world's not going to come to an end if someone gets married. They have the same concerns, educating their kids, putting food on the table as everybody else does, as straight couples do. And I think you see people's minds being changed and there's no doubt I believe we're on the right side of history. And if you put it to referendum now, here in California, I think would you see the numbers reversed.

BANFIELD: I think there's definitely four or five people on the Supreme Court who agree with you, but then I think there's about four or five people on the Supreme Court who don't, so this is going to be just fascinating. And we're going to be all eyes and all ears.

I look forward to speaking to you again at some point as well once we have some kind of determination.

Thanks, Dennis.

HERRERA: Thanks, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: We should know, by the way, by Monday, really. We should know by Monday whether or not the Supreme Court is going to take up the same-sex marriage issue this term. Of course, we'll have it right here live on CNN.


BANFIELD: For the first time, the world has heard from Army Private Bradley Manning. It happened yesterday. He is the man charged with the largest leak of classified material in American history. He is also accused of downloading thousands of classified documents while serving in Iraq, then just handing them over to the website we all know as WikiLeaks. Those documents, of course, ended up online. Loads of eyeballs saw them that perhaps should not have. But, his lawyers say he should go free, really soon. They say he has already been punished enough just since being held. That arrest, back in 2010, now has been long and painful, they say.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, joins me now.

Chris, what exactly does Bradley Manning think that the government should do and why does he think that perhaps his treatment should lead to his release before any kind of trial.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: To your first question, they would like some of the charges to be thrown out. That's not likely. As a backup, they would like to see some credit for some of that mistreatment applied to whatever sentence he may get if found guilty or if he pleads.

What he is saying is sort of really giving us our first real description from him of what he has gone through personally. He says when he talked about that first prison where he spent a couple of months in Kuwait, he said it was like a dark, lonely hole. He said, "I thought I was going to die in that cage." Then he was transferred to Quantico where he says it reminded him of that cage in Kuwait. He basically said that he spent about 23 hours of the day by himself, not seeing anyone else. He wasn't allowed to sleep during the day. At one point, he had to sleep naked at night and then the next day stand naked because of something he had said to a guard. He is saying all of this should be taken into account when talking about how long he should stay in prison.

BANFIELD: Well, you know, I guess many speaking on behalf of the government, I'm sure that the cross-examination of him is going to lead to things like, you did say that you were at risk of suicide and these are sort of the protocols that we go through for people who are at risk of suicide, no?

LAWRENCE: That's right. He has been under cross-examination now for about the last two or three hours. Prosecutors are trying to poke holes in his story. That he is saying, you know, this mistreatment was so bad that I thought about killing myself. But they're pointing to some of his sarcastic answers to questions about suicide while he was locked up. At one point, when he was asked about it, he described suicidal thoughts in terms of always thinking, never acting, sort of a sarcastic take on it. They say Manning was delivered the books that he wanted to read, that he didn't have a steel door. His cell had bars, so he could see some sunlight coming down.

And so now what you are getting is these two competing theories of how he was treated, and all that could factor into how much credit he is given for the time that he has already been locked up.

BANFIELD: Or if he is given the credit at all, I would imagine as well.


BANFIELD: All right, Chris, I know you are still on it, because that hearing continues, so keep bringing us the details. It's fascinating stuff.

Back in just a moment.


BANFIELD: There were two winners in Wednesday's massive jackpot, that Powerball jackpot, and while they hit it big, guess who else did? The tax man. You are not going to believe the numbers I'm about to tell you. Whether these people take their prize in the lump sum or payout, that annual annuity that goes on and on and on, they will be taxed at the highest federal income tax rate, 35 percent. So if it's taken as a lump sum, the winners will get $192.5 million each before taxes. After federal and state taxes, the Arizona winner will only take home $114 million. The Missouri winner will get about $117.5 million. If you are wonder what that tax bill is in Arizona, that guy or girl, is going to pay $78.5 million to the tax man. Ouch. The Missouri fellow, or woman, will pay $75 million to the tax man. I'm sure they'll be OK with that really. Trust me. Here's some perspective, too, as well. As we get set to dive over the fiscal cliff, January 1st and our taxes jump up, if these people had won just another month and a half later, guess what would have happened? Their winnings would have been slashed by $8 million more. So there's the silver lining in the tax cloud.

Speaking of clouds, man, is it a mess on the west coast. There's just no let-up in the rain.

Karen McGinnis is here to talk about the Pacific storms that are battering the region.

That rain just keeps coming and coming. It's expected to dump four to eight inches on places that have already been deluged with six inches.


BANFIELD: That spells flooding, doesn't it?

MCGINNIS: It really does. This will be the big concern as we head towards the weekend. Up and down the west coast, from Seattle to San Diego, they're being impacted by fierce winds, heavy rain. And it looks like the mountains, a pretty good snowstorm expected in some areas as well, with up to three feet possible. San Francisco getting a deluge of visibility only a fraction of a mile, with light rain and the temperatures only in the 60s right now.

But if you are going in and out of the San Francisco bay area, this is what you have to look forward to. Check with your airline. Already a ground delay. Three and a half hours because of the messy weather situation.

Southern California not going to be as impacted as the rest of the state, but nonetheless, right along into central California and into central, this is where we're looking at perhaps some of the heaviest rainfall totals. Look at the sustained winds, between 25 and about 35, but some of those higher peaks are expecting some wind gusts right around 120 miles an hour. And they're saying, well, that will decrease tonight to around 80 or 90 miles an hour. Take a look at some of the wind reports that we have. Mount Rose Ski Resort, 80- mile-an-hour wind gust reported there.

And, yes, the rainfall totals, as much as 11 inches, or thereabouts. And as we go into the next several days, it's going to be one deluge after the other. Watch this. Here comes the first wave, already moving through. No break. And then we go into Saturday and into Sunday, another storm system moves on shore.

Ashleigh, it looks like they're just kind of lined up all across the Pacific.

BANFIELD: Oh, gosh. I hope things get better for them soon. That is not nice to see.

Karen, thank you for that.

And thank you, everyone, for watching NEWSROOM with me. I'm going to pass the baton now over to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL.