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Spring Storm Batters Colorado; Man Arrested for Impersonating Pilot; Two Teens Charged with Baby's Murder; Police Look for Links to three Murders; FAA Closing 149 Airport Towers; Sandy Hook Victim's Father Talks with Shooter's Father; Tennis Player Accused of Stalking; Same-Sex Marriage Debate; Cost Cutting in Chicago School System

Aired March 23, 2013 - 11:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: From the CNN Center, this is CNN SATURDAY MORNING. It is Saturday, March 23rd. Good morning. I'm Christine Romans.

A man tried to pull a stunt on a plane headed to Florida. It didn't work. In fact it got him arrested.

What's with this sudden rash of meteors? People along the Eastern Seaboard lit up social media when they saw a streaking ball of fire in the sky.

And did I say fire? Well, we're going to tell you why the woman who owns this home that burned to the ground blames all that on a snake.

But we begin with fierce winter weather battering the Rockies. Conditions so bad in Colorado some stretches of I-70 has been shut down in both directions. Severe weather stretches from Colorado to eastern Kansas. People warned not to drive in these conditions unless absolutely necessary.

Karen Maginnis joins us from the Severe Weather Center. Calendar says spring. Oh boy, oh boy but this winter just will not end.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And everyone is hoping that we would see spring. As a matter of the fact there was an indicator if I remember rightly, several indicators, that we might see an early spring. But no now it looks like those interstates especially Interstate-70 coming out of Denver it is particularly this stretch of road all the way from just east of Denver right over to the border with Kansas very treacherous driving conditions being reported there.

Already at the Denver International Airport we have seen just about 7.5 inches of snowfall. More is expected as we go throughout the afternoon and they are under a winter storm warning that stretches all the way in through Kansas and Nebraska pretty much sandwiched between the Interstate-70 and Interstate-80 and that is topped with 40 to 50 mile-an-hour wind gusts.

Where you see the pink that's where we're looking at winter storm warnings. It continues over into portions of Illinois but other areas under winter storm watches as well. Continuing into the upper Ohio River Valley and that's where we're looking at the next 24 hours as we move ahead and look ahead from the Central Rockies over into the Central Great Plains, the area of low pressure will trek towards the Ohio River Valley.

As it does if you live along the mid-Atlantic region in that Washington, D.C. Area, watch out. The forecast has been a little tricky there over the last month or so we have really been trying to pin down a forecast a lot of times for Washington but right now it could be a rain/snow mix or it could be a heavy snow.

But either way, Christine, it is going to really start out the workweek on a very slow note because winter is not giving up just yet.

ROMANS: All right. And we'll take it. We'll take it.

A flash of fire streaked across the skies last night from Virginia to Maine. See that little dot on this video. Experts say it was probably a meteor and of course folks who saw it wasted no time tweeting about it.

Curious Sergey tweeted, "OMG I saw a real meteor in the Brooklyn sky. It's all over the news now. I thought it was some kind of firework."

And Olivia wrote, "Seriously after that massive meteor in California a few weeks ago, the one that hit Russia, and now this huge one tonight, a little scary."

This man is in custody right now accused of impersonating a pilot on a US Airways plane at the Philadelphia airport. And police say Philippe Jernnard dressed as a pilot even managed to get inside the cockpit.


CAPTAIN MIKE MURPHY, PHILADELPHIA POLICE: He enters the cockpit, he's conversing with the first officer and the Captain and wants to sit in the jump seat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's outrageous. Unheard of and I'm like really shocked.


ROMANS: Police say the flight crew became suspicious after the man started arguing with the pilots. Jernnard is being held on $1 million bail and he's charged with trespassing, impersonating a public servant and lying to police.

Heartbreak this morning as authorities try to figure out what caused an airport flight display board to collapse on a family killing a 10- year-old boy, critically injuring his mother and hurting his two brothers. It happened in a new section of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport in Alabama. It took six men to lift the sign off the family.

Larry Snyder was one of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LARRY SNYDER, WITNESS HELPER: The family was crushed. The little kids crushed underneath the -- the sign. And everybody was scattering to lift it up. I helped lift it up and helped pull people out.


ROMANS: The family was returning to home to Kansas from spring break in Florida.

In Georgia, two teen boys are in jail on murder charges for allegedly killing a 13-month-old baby. The mother says the boys shot the baby while she was walking with him in a stroller. She claims the older suspect initially asked her for money and shot her baby when she said she didn't have any.

Our Nick Valencia is live in Brunswick, Georgia. This is such a sad story. What are you hearing now? Why were these boys arrested?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a tragic story. Well they are arrested because they are the two -- thought to be the two suspects involved in this incident.

But I want to tell you Christine we've got new information just into CNN. We're hearing from the Brunswick Police Department that CNN will be exclusively given the 911 tapes from that incident on Thursday morning.

I want to bring in Officer Todd Rhodes. He's a public information officer with the Brunswick Police Department. He's been in front of the media throughout this entire very tragic incident.

Now Officer Rhodes, this 911 tape, what are we expecting to hear?

TODD RHODES, BRUNSWICK POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well basically Nick it's going to basically you'll hear how the calls initially came in as a help for -- call for emergency services, medical assistance, emergency services. And so you'll -- you'll hear that. And plus we got calls from different people that was calling in indicating that they heard gunshots and so that's initially basically what you're going to end up hearing.

VALENCIA: So these are multiple calls that you received. No eyewitnesses though still have come forward.

RHODES: Well not to this point. Not to this point, I'm not saying that there isn't any. Of course that's why our investigators are still investigating this because we want to make sure that we leave no stone unturned and that we do a thorough investigation.

VALENCIA: Now initially police have said that they would not be releasing the 911 tapes or the incident report. Why the change of heart here?

RHODES: Well it's just that, you know, we're -- as an agency we're trying to be as accommodating as possible without jeopardizing the case. VALENCIA: Are we learning anymore about the suspects? 17 year-old De'Marquise Elkins and the 14 year old juvenile who has not been named, any other details you can offer?

RHODES: Well not at this time right now. Because of course, you know, with them being apprehended we're still trying to accumulate evidence from them as well as from other sources as well. So not at this time.

VALENCIA: And the 14 year old he has been arrested and charged officially with first-degree murder. Is he expected to be tried as an adult?

RHODES: Well that's something that's out of our league right now. Our job is of course to identify, locate and apprehend and that's something that the District Attorney will have to determine.

VALENCIA: Thank you very much. That's Officer Todd Rhodes with the Brunswick Police Department. And that's the latest here from Brunswick. Christine back to you.

ROMANS: All right thanks Nick Valencia reporting.

It's an elaborate crime puzzle and police in two states are working to solve it. Is one man tied to three different murders? The latest grabbed headlines when Colorado's prison chief opened his front door and was shot dead this week. Two days later police in Texas shot and killed a man after a high speed chase. Was he the gun man?

Jim Spellman is working the story. He's live in Colorado Springs. What have police found Jim?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there Christine. So right now authorities here in Colorado Springs are still processing evidence from that car. They want to know if they can match shell casings and that sort of evidence with a murder of Tom Clements here.

But determining whether this man Evan Ebel was the trigger man maybe only part of the puzzle here in Colorado. They are also doing investigations inside prison walls because Evan Ebel was associated with a prison gang a white supremacist prison gang called the 211. They want to know whether this was some sort of hit, something orchestrated with people on the inside.

And that connection to white supremacist gangs is what has brought this man to the attention of people in Kaufman County Texas where they're investigating the murder of an assistant district attorney Mark Hasse back on January 31st. He was gunned down in the parking lot of a courthouse there. They want to know if all of these things are connected because of proximity, the sort of M.O. of just shooting a public official without any robbery, none, no other extenuating circumstances and this connection to white supremacist gangs -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes it certainly is just a bizarre story and, of course, the suspect is dead in that shootout. So you know with him goes an awful lot of information. Are they getting any closer to understanding a motive here?

SPELLMAN: No. Motive is one of the key things they want to answer. That's another part why they are investigating inside prison as we speak. They want to find out a motive. Was this directed at -- at this man specifically, obviously a question because of his job as a prison chief and likewise the man in Texas because of his job as a prosecutor. There was no apparent robbery or anything else like that so that's obviously where this case has turned.

But I will tell you, authorities here are very quick to tell you that this investigation is far from over. They really have a lot more work to do before they can answer those questions.

ROMANS: Sure. All right, Jim Spellman from Colorado Springs, thanks Jim.

American Airlines is offering passengers new incentives. I'll tell you how you can board your flight faster next time you fly.


ROMANS: Early today the Senate passed its version of a federal budget. It's mostly symbolic since its nonbinding. It lays out the Senate's priorities which are vastly different from the House budget passed by the Republican majority. The Senate plan backed by Democrats increases government spending and it would also repeal those automatic spending cuts.

President Obama is heading home after a four day trip to the Middle East. He made stops in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, the President was on something of an international charm offensive, you can call it. He called on Israel to restart direct talks with the Palestinians and he helps broker an apology from Israel to Turkey over a deadly commando raid.

He didn't win the presidency but Mitt Romney still plans to have a say. He's asking political and business leaders to a four-day retreat in Utah in June. The idea, look for solutions to the country's problems. Romney says he wants to stay engaged in public policy. Among those invited are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Romney's former running mate and House Budget Chairman Congressman Paul Ryan.

149 airport control towers around the nation are set to close because of forced spending cuts. The FAA says it's targeting low to medium traffic airports. But the closures could also affect big airports causing delays of as much as 90 minutes.

I asked a former air marshal Darelle Joiner and union president representing air traffic controllers Ron Taylor if this would affect air safety.


DARELLE JOINER, FORMER AIR MARSHAL: There's no concerns for the public as far as safety is concerned. The numbers will reveal, I believe that with these closures we're going to have somewhere between about 150,000 flights that take off and land per year. Just to give you an idea of what the percentage is, there's more than 26,000 flights that take off and land every day.

So you're talking about 150,000 throughout the year. That number is surpassed in about six days.


ROMANS: So Ron -- Ron Taylor, let me ask you then. So if you've got some of these towers that have been -- have been closed and air traffic controllers who aren't needed there, beyond the impact on that particular control tower and for those workers, will flyers and public safety be affected?

RON TAYLOR, PRESIDENT, PROFESSIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ORGANIZATION (via telephone): Absolutely their safety will be compromised if these towers because a lot are closed down.

ROMANS: How? Why? Tell me why?

TAYLOR: There will be nobody there to control the towers. They will have all of these nice runways and taxiways and everything else going on and there will be nobody there to guide the airplanes in and to sequence them into the airports.

ROMANS: Don't we already have some airports where we don't have an air traffic controller on hand where the smallest, very low traffic and medium traffic airport where we don't have an air control tower? Is that true?

TAYLOR: That's true. And it sometimes sucks, but what we have now is we've expanded this program over the past 30 years and pumped a lot of federal money. We've expanded air carrier service, air taxi, military, general aviation. Now we reached a point we can't afford to take the chance or the risk to close down a control tower. Safety is primarily going to be a problem right now.

ROMANS: Let me ask you, Darelle, clearly you guys have different takes on how this is going to affect flyers. Some are saying maybe you could see some more delays. But that air safety is something the FAA took into consideration in all of this.

The FAA says that this will not affect passenger safety which raises the question, can you cut from these budgets, do you think Darelle, can you cut smartly from these budgets at all?

JOINER: I think so. And I think they've already demonstrated that by taking a second look at it. I think they named about 24 airports that are closely in line with some of the bigger hubs and some of the airlines just because they probably took a look at how many different incidents have been reported throughout the year and diversions so to speak.

So from a standpoint of safety or concern, obviously, I think they're looking at, OK, can we quickly divert. Are we still going to have some of these places intact to help us or assist? But from a safety standpoint, a security standpoint, everybody's still going to safe.


ROMANS: All right. That was former air marshal Darelle Joiner and union president representing air traffic controllers, Ron Taylor.

American Airlines trying out a new policy to encourage folks to check their bags. Passengers without bags will be allowed to board first. The new policy is being tested in Austin, Baltimore, Ft. Lauderdale and Washington Dulles and it will speed up the boarding process while making more money for the airlines.

Some ads appearing on buses in San Francisco are enflaming passions among many Muslim Americans. Do they represent freedom of speech or hate speech?


ROMANS: North Carolina is announcing a new look for drivers' licenses issued to some undocumented immigrants. The licenses will look like the one you're seeing here -- very similar to traditional licenses. They'll carry the words "legal presence, no lawful status". North Carolina drew fire over its original licenses which had a pink stripe across the card. Some critics compared that to a scarlet letter.

Controversial ads with shocking messages are set to debut in San Francisco. Here's a sample, quote, "Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah." The ads are being posted on buses around San Francisco. Ten of them have gone up.

Earlier I talked to the woman who's behind the ads. I asked Pamela Gellar and her group American Freedom Defense Initiative why.


PAMELA GELLAR, AMERICAN FREEDOM DEFENSE INITIATIVE: Our ads were designed to show the reality of jihad using actual quotes from high profile Muslims like the Prime Minister of Turkey, the Fort Hood jihadi, the Times Square bomber, to increase awareness about the ideology that sanctions the violence and supremacism of jihad.

ROMANS: You are being accused of this being just blatantly anti-Muslim though. What's your reaction to that criticism?

GELLAR: Well, it's deeply offensive to Muslims because the implication is that all Muslims support jihad and we know that's not true. But we don't have to pat on the back every Muslim that doesn't want to kill us. We expect that. That's our bar.

So I think that that's a canard. I think it's a deceptive statement. I know from my own e-mail box that many Muslims stand with us because they escaped jihadi wars and they escaped the Sharia. But there have been over 20,000 deadly Islamic attacks since 9/11 and Americans need to understand the ideology that inspires these acts of war.

ROMANS: All right. Pamela, I want to bring in Linda Sarsour, she's with the National Network of Arab-American Communities. Linda, you have seen these ads. Pamela says she is quoting Muslims, including Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What's your reaction?

LINDA SARSOUR, NATIONAL NETWORK OF ARAB-AMERICAN COMMUNITIES: The ads are absurd. They're offensive. You are quoting a man who is a Holocaust denier. I mean this is not -- he's not an American Muslim.

And Miss Gellar has a history and track record of vilifying the Muslim-American community and pitting communities up against each other including her most recent homophobic ads which are very offensive not only to the Muslim-American community but also to the LGBT community here in the United States.

ROMANS: This is not the first time that ads have gone up. You remember the controversy over similar ads in New York. Pamela, your organization successfully sued the New York City Transit Agency when it tried to ban those ads. The issue, you know, First Amendment freedom of speech. San Francisco's Transit Authority is in the same boat. Listen.

GELLAR: So this is again what we see. Ad hominem attacks, libels and defamation against me. They don't condemn the statements in the ad. You have the Prime Minister of Turkey saying the mosques are our fortresses, the minarets are our bayonets and the Muslims are our soldiers. The quotes that I'm using are actually quotes from the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt Sheik Qaradawi calling for the death penalty for homosexuals.

My calling attention to this makes me homophobic? No. Not calling attention to the plight of gays under the Sharia is killing people. And so of course, attack me but where is the condemnation of the actual statements that these high profile Muslims are making? We don't hear that at all. I think it's very interesting. And it speaks volumes as to the motive behind --


ROMANS: But how does this enflame -- I will say there has been plenty of condemnation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the statements that he has said about homosexuals and homosexuality. I mean there's been plenty of statements, condemnation of him and others. I've been there's been prosecution of some of the people that you show on these, you know, the Times Square bomber and the like. It's not as if -- I guess I don't understand your point.

GELLAR: My point is the American people are being disarmed by obscuring the true reality of jihad and this is our way of sort of leapfrogging over the media who whitewashes and sanitizes it and, you know, alerting the American people to what is the gravest national security threat that our nation faces.

ROMANS: Linda, can you see how the courts view this as a freedom of speech? That it is Pamela's right to put up these billboards?

SARSOUR: I'm not debating her right and her freedom of speech and that's why we live in the United States of America. But I will say on the -- particularly on the homophobic remarks, we can take these ads and it could be about any of the Abrahamic (inaudible) which have similar if not identical views on homosexuality but what I'm troubled by is Miss Gellar's obsession and fascination with Islam and with American Muslims.


ROMANS: Both women favor individual rights for all and freedom of speech but they just see it very differently from very different perspectives.

Thousands of runners are hitting the streets in Hartford, Connecticut right now. They're running to remember the children killed in the Newtown school shooting.


ROMANS: There's a historic meeting unfolding in Rome today. For the first time in centuries a Pope is meeting another living pope. Pope Francis is meeting with his predecessor, Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. The two are lunching together at Benedict's home, a hilltop castle. The 85-year-old Benedict has been living there since he resigned last month. Of course, he cited his age for that. But of course, he's been following Francis' election as pope and his inauguration before huge crowds in Rome and that is really history right there.

It may be spring but it doesn't look like it in Denver. This is a soccer match last night in the Mile-High City. The U.S. national team beat Costa Rica 1-0. It's unclear if they could find the soccer ball by the time it was all said and done. It's still snowing this morning by the way in Denver.

The Post Office's plans to stop delivering letters on Saturday hitting a big snag. The U.S. Government Accountability Office says mail must be delivered six, yes, six days a week. It made this statement in a legal opinion. The Post Office insists it's not really ending six-day mail service since it will still deliver packages on Saturdays and it says that it doesn't expect a legal fight.

In Iowa, a fallen soldier was honored with more than 2,200 flags. Staff Sergeant Steven Blatt was killed in a helicopter blast that killed four others. Those flags you see were provided by a gentleman known as the Flag Man. Larry Eckhardt travels around the country bringing his collection of American flags to military funerals. Eckhardt says he's been doing this for five years. He's provided flags to more than 100 services.

Thousands of people laced up their running shoes this morning to remember the children of Newtown, Connecticut. They are running to raise money to support the families of 20 elementary school kids and six teachers gunned down in their classroom last December. One of those children was Robbie Parker's daughter Emilie, incredibly, incredibly, he reached out to the shooter's father. Piers Morgan asked him why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF EMILIE, SANDY HOOK VICTIM: It was actually kind of a mutual thing. We had heard through some people that Peter was extremely moved and was appreciative of some of the things that I had mentioned about his family when I had released my statement early on. And so the idea got brought up from his side and from our side if it would be a good idea to meet. And so it was just more of a mutual thing and the more I thought about it and spoke about it with each other, we thought it was the right thing to do.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN LIVE": It happened at the end of January, I believe. When you walked into the room and there is the father of this young man who took your daughter's life, what goes through your mind?

PARKER: One of the reasons I wanted to speak to him was I wanted to speak to him as a father, one father to another father. I understand that despite the circumstances that he lost his son and that he needed to grieve that as well just as much as I needed to grieve my daughter. And so I wanted to express those condolences to him. I felt like we were able to do that for each other.

MORGAN: Because his life in many ways has been ruined too by this. So often as is the case in these awful atrocities. At the same time, I know your wife, I spoke to her earlier about this and she's very candid about this. She felt strongly although obviously it was nothing to do with him in terms of the shooting, parental responsibilities in all of these cases have a part to play however big or small we may never know but they have a part to play.

PARKER: In the moment that you become a parent, you take on an extreme and very powerful responsibility in your life and Alissa (ph) did have a powerful experience for her that made it so that she wanted to reach out to him and just share a message of you are his father. You are the only one that's around now to be able to try and help and bring some sort of understanding to this whole situation and she just wanted to make sure that he was empowered to be able to do what he needed to do, to do whatever he could do to bring that information forward. We came away with a better understanding of certain issues that we had questions about. Like I said, he was a person that could provide those answers for us.


ROMANS: Thanks to Piers Morgan and Robbie Parker. You can watch "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" weeknights at 9:00 right here on CNN.

Former tennis star Jennifer Capriati is in trouble with the law. It all started when she got mad at her boyfriend on Valentine's Day. We'll tell you what happened.


ROMANS: In Texas a woman tries to get rid of a snake but her plan goes up in flames. The local fire chief says the woman doused the reptile in gasoline, then her son lit it on fire. As the snake tried to escape, it ignited some nearby brush which set fire to the woman's house and then it set fire to the house next door. She also owns that one. No people were hurt. No word on the fate of the snake.

A teenage girl in southern California survives a scene right out of a horror movie. Cowering in a closet while three burglars invade her house. The 15-year old girl ran into her parent's walk-in closet. The alarm system went off while she was home alone. The emergency operator told the frightened girl not to say a word after she heard the criminals' voices just inches away from her as she hid behind clothes.


CALLER: Please hurry.

911 OPERATOR: We're on the way. We also have a helicopter on the way too.

BURGLAR: Hey, bring the bucket over here.

911 OPERATOR: OK, don't talk. Can you tell you understand by tapping on the phone once that do not open the door. OK, do not open that door.


ROMANS: Wow. Police arrived shortly after and they arrested three teen suspects in a stolen car in the driveway. The heroic high school girl was not hurt.

Former tennis star Jennifer Capriati is being charged with stalking and battery of her ex-boyfriend. The incident allegedly occurred on Valentine's Day when police say she punched Ivan Brennan (ph). Capriati will appear in court to face charges in April. I asked CNN legal contributor Paul Callan how much trouble she could be in.


PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: She's facing two counts, one that she actually physically assaulted the alleged victim and the second cyber stalking. Both are misdemeanor counts. Each carries as much as a year in prison. I must say usually though you don't get prison time for this sort of thing. But they are serious charges.

ROMANS: How unusual is it to have a celebrity accused of doing the stalking and not the other way around?

CALLAN: You know, Christine, it's highly unusual. Usually of course it's the celebrity being stalked by some stranger that we read about in the newspaper. And there's another thing that's unusual here. I was looking at the statistics.

Although over three million Americans have been stalked annually according to Department of Justice statistics, more often than not the stalker is a male. Usually almost 90 percent of the time believe it or not despite what you see in the movies, the stalker is a male. Here the victim allegedly is a male with the stalker a female. This flips the whole phenomenon upside down. ROMANS: So she hasn't been arrested. She's charged with this. She has to appear in court in April. What's the process going to be like for her?

CALLAN: She'll be offered an opportunity to plead guilty, possibly resolve it. Usually these things are resolved with a restraining order that sort of thing. You stay away from the person you're allegedly stalking. But if she insists on a trial and says she's innocent, wow, this is going to be a real slug fest because the Brennan, the former boyfriend says he was punched in the chest four times. He says he was rescued by a yoga instructor at the gym and he's got photographs of his damaged chest. They also say that Jennifer Capriati was making upwards of 50, maybe hundreds of phone calls to him, 50 of those to his workplace. So it'll be quite a battle in court if it goes forward.

ROMANS: If she fights this, what will lawyers be looking for to try to defend this case?

CALLAN: Well, Capriati's lawyer says it's nonsense, that this is just a romantic relationship that didn't work out. There are also reports that Brennan has an arrest record himself although a minor one for drug use and one of his former girlfriends, who appeared on one of these celebrity restaurant shows has come forward and said, you know something, he made false stalking complaints against me. So all of this has the potential to come up in a very, very highly publicized trial if the case goes forward.


ROMANS: That was CNN legal contributor Paul Callan. The issue of same- sex marriage goes before the Supreme Court next week. We ask some experts to weigh in.


ROMANS: Major league baseball has filed a lawsuit against a Florida clinic linked to supplying players with performance enhancing drugs. According to the suit, the Biogenesis of America clinic gave banned substances to a number of current and former pro baseball players. A story last month It links the clinic to players including New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez. A-rod's camp denies any connection to the clinic and its owner.

Next week the Supreme Court will begin tackling the marriage debate. According to a new CNN/ORC poll, 53 percent of Americans now think same-sex marriage should be legalized; 44 percent say it should not. I asked Brian Moulton, the legal director for The Human Rights Campaign and Ryan Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the co- author of "What Is Marriage? Man and Woman A Defense," what they think.


RYAN ANDERSON, AUTHOR, "WHAT IS MARRIAGE?": But the most important thing in the lead-up to next week is that it's American citizens and their elected representatives who should be voting on marriage policy, not five or nine unelected judges.

ROMANS: Brian, for the first time in her long political career, Hillary Clinton came out in support of same-sex marriage in a video that your organization released this week. The former secretary of State, a U.S. senator, 2008 presidential candidate had backed civil unions and partner benefits for same-sex couples, but never, she never made a full endorsement for marriage. She said it's about equality. Listen.


HILLARY CLINTON, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights. And the United States would be a leader in defending those rights.


ROMANS: Brian, do you think this is a move to influence the Supreme Court like the American Academy of Pediatrics and others who are trying to get their opinions out there now before the court decides?

BRIAN MOULTON, LEGAL DIRECTOR, THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: I think what you see from Hillary Clinton, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, from Ralph Portman, from more and more figures public and private, more and more organizations is that this is the issue in front of the court, in front of the American people the way it never has been.

And a lots of folks want to make sure their position on the issue is clear. You've seen more and more folks coming out for equality because really that's where our country is and where it's going.

ROMANS: Ryan, I got to ask you, we showed those polls showing how quickly things have changed just over the past four years. Do you see that sense of public opinion is changing or you don't buy those polls?

ANDERSON: I think public opinion right now is changing and that's why we shouldn't have the Supreme Court stop the conversation. What we don't need is for the Supreme Court to artificially stop the democratic process, which is what they did in Roe, so we've already seen this 40 years ago. The nation was having a conversation about abortion and the court shut it down, struck down laws in all 50 states and it led to a 40-year culture war. We don't need the court treating another culture war on the question of marriage. Let the citizens discuss and vote.

ROMANS: Ryan, in your book, you say the future of the country depends on the future of marriage and the future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters. So what is marriage to you and what do you think would happen to the country if gays can marry?

ANDERSON: The state has an interest in marriage, because it needs men and women to commit to each other as husband and wife and then take responsibility for their children as mothers and fathers. President Obama has spoken moving about the importance of fathers, how he wished his father would have involved in his life, how that inspires him to be a good father to his own daughters.

ROMANS: What's wrong with two fathers?

ANDERSON: How can the law teach that fathers are essential when it redefines marriage to make fathers optional? It's not just two parents. It's the father and a mother. Mothering and fathering are distinct phenomenon and children do best and they have a right to a mother and a father and that's what marriage does.

ROMANS: Brian I'll let you react to that point.

MOULTON: First of all, these talking points are always ignoring the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of children being raised by same-sex couples successfully in this country which is why you have the American Academy of Pediatrics and lots of other child welfare organizations that have already come out in support of parenting by same-sex couples and marriage because those kids deserve a stable protected, respected home just as much as kids being raised by opposite sex couples do. And I just completely disagree that somehow allowing those children to have a stable and legally recognized home is somehow a threat to marriage more broadly or to the institution that gay and lesbian couples are simply trying to join.

ROMANS: Let me ask you Brian I guess also to react to Ryan's point that it would be the Supreme Court stopping the democratic process.

MOULTON: The Supreme Court is going to be doing its job which is to make sure that the laws of the country are consistent with our constitution and the guarantees for all people, minorities included and that's what they're going to be doing next week. They're not breaking the rules of our democracy or stalling out the process. They're actually doing what they're there to do which is to make sure that even if a law is passed by a state legislature or voted on by the people, it can't be inconsistent with our constitution.


ROMANS: That was Brian Moulton, the legal director for The Human Rights Campaign and Ryan Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. If you think history is boring, you got to see this. We'll go to a history class like none other you have seen. It's all because of a teacher who brings class to life. You want to see how he does it on the other side.


ROMANS: Do you remember your high school history teacher? I actually do, but most people probably don't. We'd like to introduce you to a history teacher in Minnesota who loves what he does. William Tupper (ph) of affiliate KARE shows us how Dan Johnson breathes life into history.


BOYD TUPPER, KARE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sunny day on the outside of the Cambridge High School, a different story in Dan Johnson's history room.

DAN JOHNSON: The smells, here are the kerosene lamp. Depression-erea classroom, ready for (INAUDIBLE)

TUPPER: Pushed to the side are the regular desks. Fluorescent lights are replaced by a single bulb.

JOHNSON: This is an A&P grocery store.

TUPPER: Mr. Johnson has never been a big believer in spouting facts and figures. His teaching method is experiences. Today it's the great depression. In coming weeks, students will arrive to find their teacher dressed like a World War II drill sergeant and a Woodstock hippie.

JOHNSON: Potatoes, 10 pounds for 29 cents.

SHAYANNA WILSON, CAMBRIDGE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: They put you in a position where it's like how it was back then and I really like that.

DAN JOHNSON: It's amazing how when things get tough, how you can survive.

TUPPER: Few students even have grandparents who can share depression era memories. Have you ever typed on a typewriter before?

WILSON: Never.

JOHNSON: Anybody? Charleston, want to show us how it's done?

TUPPER: Mr. Johnson does that for them.

MEGAN SCHEILLER, CAMBRIDGE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: He makes it's interesting to learn. It's not like math class where it's boring stuff.

TUPPER: Your math teacher is not going to want to hear that.

SCHEILLER: Yes, I know.

TUPPER: After 32 years of teaching here, Mr. Johnson will retire at the end of this year. At Cambridge high school, history will treat him kindly.


ROMANS: That is one cool teacher. That was Boyd Tupper of our affiliate KARE in the twin cities.

"CNN NEWSROOM" starts at the top of the hour. Fredricka is here.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: It's a nice way to inspire kids to be interested in history. It's not one of the classes where a lot of kids are sleeping.

ROMANS: Hopefully other teachers are watching saying, hey maybe I can use the tips.

WHITFIELD: We got lots straight ahead at noon Eastern time beginning with our legal guy (INAUDIBLE) will be joining us. They are tackling the case of Casey Anthony. Remember that name, mother acquitted in the murder charges involving her toddler. Well, now apparently her life story is up for auction, looking for the highest bidder to sell her life story to for use in any way. What will the courts have to say about that?

And then just this past November, big election season. Voters in Washington state approved the legalization of recreational marijuana. I will be talking to a man who is advising state leaders on how to make this new business, new law work. So-called marijuana czar will be joining me.

And then history has been made and barriers have been broken in Israel and I'm not talking about President Obama's trip to the Middle East. Instead I'm talking about the crowning of this woman right here as Miss Israel, Ethiopian born, a woman. We'll be talking with her, introduce you to her and how she was a guest of honor at a dinner involving the president of the United States while he was in Israel. Pretty extraordinary life story.

ROMANS: What an interesting story. I look forward to that.

WHITFIELD: All that straight ahead, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, you name it.

ROMANS: All right. It's not springtime, so I'm just going to hunker down with my television today.

Schools shutting their doors in Chicago. It's billed as move to save money but some are just plain outraged. We're going to take a look at the issues. You'll want to see this.


ROMANS: Our Martin Savidge looks at why some Chicago schools are shutting their doors, talked to some parents who are outraged.


CARLTON FERNELL, PARENT: I heard they are not going to be coming back next year and it's sad. It's sad.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the list the parents have been dreading for months, 61 buildings including 53 schools targeted for closure. The massive move designed to cut costs as the Chicago public school system faces a reported $1 billion deficit. In Alderman Willie Cochran's south side ward constituents have been calling all day.

WILLIE COCHRAN, CHICAGO ALDERMAN: Some cases we're happy, some cases we are not so happy.

SAVIDGE: On the plus side, the district says the savings will allow major investments in surviving schools, including adding 70 libraries, science labs, even air-conditioning. For many it's not what's gained but what's lost and where, neighborhood schools in some of Chicago's poorest communities. School officials say the decisions were based on low enrollments, but others say race played a role.

An outraged Carrie Austin, an alderman from the city's far south side told the "Chicago Tribune," quote, every time the whites get to screaming and hollering, they back off and steam roll over black and brown folks. Not this time. She's not the only one who believes this. You think it's the black communities that often are asked to sacrifice first?

FERNELL: In this case, yes, I do. Yes, I do.

SAVIDGE (on-camera): This is 70th Street on the heart of the city's south side and this is the local elementary school. Parents are proud of it. The sign up there would bear that out, soaring to new heights. All of which would be very good if it wasn't slated to be closed. What is going to happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really don't know. I don't know what's going to happen.

SAVIDGE: Parents also fear Chicago's notorious gangs problems as kids cross into strange neighborhoods to attend new schools.

ERIC TOLBERT, FAMILY MEMBERS ATTEND SCHOOL: You have certain gangs. You got certain kids that go to certain schools because it's in their neighborhood. So when you go outside of your neighborhood, that becomes a problem.

SAVIDGE: Some blame the high number of school closings on the teachers union won a significant pay raise for teachers last fall. But the head of the union blames Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

KAREN LEWIS, CTU PRESIDENT: We have a murder mayor. We have a murder problem. He's murdering schools, he's murdering communities and it's OK. How is that OK?

SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, Willie Cochran remains optimistic even for schools on that list.

COCHRAN: I would say to the parents that are frustrated right now, there's still time to work.

SAVIDGE: After all, he says this is Chicago. Martin Savidge, CNN, Chicago.


ROMANS: Great story. "CNN NEWSROOM" continues right now with Fredricka Whitfield.

Good to see you again.