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NFL Player Charged With Murder; Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Celebrate; Michael Jackson's Son Testifies; Supreme Court Rules Against Defense of Marriage Act; Pressure Builds as Snowden Seeks Haven; Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Celebrate

Aired June 26, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's a day of celebration for supporters of same-sex marriage at the U.S. Supreme Court across the nation and online. In two major decisions today, the justices ruled that legally married same-sex couples are in fact entitled to federal benefits. And they cleared the way for same-sex marriage to be legal once again in California. Some conservatives and religious leaders are calling the rulings disappointing and even harmful for the country.

The legal and political debate over the issue is far from over. The justices steered clear of making any sweeping statements on whether same-sex marriage is basic constitutional right across the entire country.

Let's dive into the details, though, of these historic rulings with our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns. He is joining us now from the United States Supreme Court -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are two hugely important historic rulings that could redefine what it means to be a spouse across this country from coast to coast.


JOHNS (voice-over): Elation outside the Supreme Court and dejection as a 5-4 majority tore out the heart of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples for 17 years.

In the quiet courtroom, a stifled squeal of joy from the audience when Justice Anthony Kennedy read his ruling. "DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment." He said it's up to states to regulate marriage, not Congress.

Following the decision, the president called 84-year-old Edie Windsor. She initially brought this case to fight a huge tax bill when her wife died.

EDITH WINDSOR, PLAINTIFF: On a practical level, due to DOMA, I was taxed $363,000 in federal estate tax that I would not have been to pay if I had been married to a man.

JOHNS: Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent was scathing. "When the court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter. Now we're told that DOMA is invalid because it demeans the couple whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects."

Just minutes later, the other 5-4 decision on California's Proposition 8. This time, Chief Justice John Roberts gave the opinion for other tired and weary-looking justices. He said the court could not decide the California case because opponents of same-sex marriage could not show how they had been harmed, which means gay marriage in California can resume when a lower court gives the word, though opponents promise to keep fighting.

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: This is far from over. In fact, time is not on the side of those who want to redefine marriage.


BLITZER: Joe, you were inside the Supreme Court when they released the decisions. You were with those nine justices, one of the few reporters allowed inside. I know you're an attorney. You're a graduate of law school. What was it like? Set the scene for us.

JOHNS: It was quite a moment, Wolf, quite frankly, the justices of the Supreme Court looking absolutely exhausted at the end of the term, some just seeming to want to get it over with.

But I think the thing I was left with in the courtroom was the differences between the people, in the front, all of the lawyers, as is traditional. In the back, a whole new generation, a whole new crowd of young people, many of them clearly supporters of marriage equality in their summer clothes and their flip-flops, some of whom had stayed up all night just to see this moment, got what they asked for, Wolf.

BLITZER: Joe Johns, a graduate of American University Law School right here in the nation's capital, doing excellent work for us, as he always does.

Thank you.

One of the high-profile lawyer who argued for same-sex marriage rights says today's rulings bring the nation closer to true equality.

David Boies represented the couples who challenged California's same- sex marriage ban.

He spoke to our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, about the impact of the decisions soon after they were handed down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID BOIES, ATTORNEY FOR THE AMERICAN FEDERATION FOR EQUAL RIGHTS: The Supreme Court is now on record as saying that there is no harm to anybody in allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry the people that they love. And that by itself eliminates any rational basis for any state to discriminate in terms of who can marry.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So are you saying to me now, that this opens the doors for same-sex marriage in states other than California?

BOIES: Absolutely. I think no court can now uphold discriminatory laws that prohibit gay and lesbian citizens from marrying. I think that all of those laws are going to be held unconstitutional, just applying the principles that the Supreme Court articulated today.

BORGER: And so are you and your co-counsel, Ted Olson, going to try and make the same case in other states?

BOIES: We're going to make sure that the promise that the Supreme Court made today, that all American citizens deserve marriage equality, is fulfilled.

BORGER: How do you do that?

BOIES: Well, we're going to talk about that tonight or maybe tomorrow morning.

BORGER: Well, but give me some idea of the kinds of things that you could do.

BOIES: Well, I think among other things, we will be talking to state legislatures, trying to convince them that they ought not to wait for a court case, that they ought to adopt marriage equality now.

The Supreme Court has said that legislators as well as courts have a responsibility to enforce the Constitution, so what we would hope is that you would continue to find state by state adopting marriage equality through the legislature, through referendum and through the courts.

BORGER: What if in the state of California the proponents of Proposition 8 try and go back through the court system to say that they do have parties who are aggrieved?

BOIES: No chance. No chance.

BORGER: You don't think so?

BOIES: Zero chance. No, that's over. OK? Proposition 8 is dead and it's not coming back.

BORGER: You have been at this for a long time, you and Ted Olson.

BOIES: Sure. It feels great.

My only regret, as I said, is that Ted can't be here. I mean, we have been joined at the hip the last four years. And it could not have been a better experience. I could not have had a better colleague and partner.

BORGER: But let me ask you this. The court did not decide on the broad issue that you would have liked. You have called which the great civil rights issue of this generation. And you said that this was a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

That is not what the court decided. The court decided on something called standing, which is more jurisdictional and less broad than what you really would have liked in a perfect world, right?

BOIES: Yes and no.

In a perfect world, we would have liked them to have declared marriage equality for all 50 states. But what the court did today in DOMA --


BORGER: And you didn't --


BOIES: In DOMA -- what they did today in DOMA was they said that there was no basis for this discrimination.

BORGER: Didn't you know all along, though, that you were asking the court to do a really heavy lift, you know, asking the court to say in all 50 states, same-sex marriage should be legal? Didn't you know that?

BOIES: Of course, and that's -- and the court stepped up to it. The court could have ducked the DOMA case on standing. It didn't. What the court did was they said the government has standing because it's going to affect the government, and in the California case, what they said was we can't breach it, because the proponents don't have any standing.

But standing is more than just a technical doctrine, because if they had had any injury, or if they had had any concrete injury, they would have had standing. So, when the court says they don't have standing, what it says is that there isn't anybody who is harmed by marriage equality. And if no one is harmed by marriage equality, there's no legitimate state interest.

In five years, our goal is to have marriage equality throughout the country. I think that's an achievable goal.

BORGER: In five years?

BOIES: Five years.


BLITZER: And Gloria is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me right now. Gloria, you have got to give Ted Olson and David Boies a lot of credit, because four years ago when they started this journey together, and they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, Gore vs. Bush, they argued before the Supreme Court on opposite sides, a lot of supporters of gay marriage thought, well, maybe this isn't the right time to go before the Supreme Court. They didn't know Justice Kennedy was going to vote in favor, for example, of doing away with DOMA.


BORGER: Right. There was a lot of skepticism within the gay community, saying, why are you doing this now? It's moving quite nicely through the states. Let it move through the states first, because the court is never going to rule in your favor. We're never going to get this and you could set us back.

And Ted Olson and David Boies had a very different vision. They knew this was the state of California, first of all, and that that would give them an advantage and they had a vision that they could get this through to the Supreme Court and then here they are today, not quite what the ruling they would have wanted in a perfect world. But in the end, same-sex couples are going to be able to get married in the state of California and they believe, as you heard David Boies say, that that will get the ball rolling in the 38 states where gay marriage is now not allowed.

BLITZER: And we just heard in the last hour from Kamala Harris, the attorney general of California. Those marriages in California could begin within 25 or 30 days, maybe even more quickly.


BLITZER: Gloria, good work. Thank you.


BLITZER: Up next, he's off the football field in jail. What's next for the ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez now that he's been charged with first-degree murder?

And gripping testimony by a friend of Trayvon Martin about his last moments before George Zimmerman shot him.


BLITZER: A now ex-NFL player is in jail, charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors say Aaron Hernandez orchestrated a man's execution last week, then tried to destroy the evidence. The New England Patriots released Hernandez almost immediately after his arrest earlier today.

Let's bring in Rachel Nichols of CNN Sports, who is watching this story for us.

Lots of, lots of amazing developments. Who would have thought this could happen. But what are you learning, Rachel?


Up until this afternoon, the speculation was that police were looking at an obstruction of justice charge for Hernandez. So it really sent shockwaves throughout the world of sports when it was a murder charge announced this afternoon. Now, here's the prosecution today laying out a dispute at the club that they think was between the two men and that they say was at the root of this incident.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defendant went to a club on Friday night together with the victim and apparently that time is when the victim spoke to people that the defendant was not happy about.

Hours before the homicide, the defendant told a third party that he couldn't trust anyone anymore and he seemed upset. At that time, he was holding a firearm. It was the defendant who made the arrangements to meet with the victim. He then called his friends to come up and, as I indicated by the nature of his text, suggesting there was some urgency that they get up here.


NICHOLS: Now, the DA used pretty strong language in this case, saying Hernandez -- quote -- "orchestrated the crime from the beginning and took steps to conceal and destroy evidence."

That is, of course, in reference to hours of video on Hernandez's home surveillance system that's now missing and a cell phone that he smashed. Now, in response, defense attorneys said the evidence in the case is circumstantial, but they were not able to secure bail. And now a young man who started the day as an NFL player with a relatively new $40 million contract is now unemployed and sitting in jail.

BLITZER: Rachel, you're well-plugged. You're plugged in well, I should say. What's the conversation in NFL circles today about what happened and whether anyone could have seen this coming?

NICHOLS: Yes. There are some people sitting around the league saying I told you so.

When Hernandez was drafted, there were questions about whether he would be a good influence on the team and have good character. There was some suspected gang ties from where he's from in Connecticut. There were questions about marijuana use in college. But at the same time he went and played for the Patriots and he was thought of relatively well in New England, in fact so well that they did give him a new, very pricey contract last summer.

And the owner of the team, Robert Kraft, came out at the time and said this guy has proven himself to be a good kid, so, not necessarily something that you could see coming and certainly not what we saw today.

BLITZER: Rachel Nichols joining us, thanks, Rachel, very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now into this case with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

If you're one of his criminal defense attorneys, what do you do now?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you start learning about the case.

He's not getting out on bail. People who are accused of first-degree murder in basically any state don't get out on bail. But this does look like a somewhat complicated circumstantial case. There is -- the prosecution claim is that Hernandez and two accomplices executed the victim in a lot nearby, nearby Hernandez's house.

What you want to know is, is there evidence that Hernandez pulled the trigger? What was the role of the two supposed accomplices? That's obviously going to be a key issue here. But this is the very early stages of what's likely to be a pretty complicated investigation for both the prosecution and defense.

BLITZER: It could go on and on and on, I suspect, as well.

Jeffrey thanks, very much.

Up next, gripping testimony about Trayvon Martin's final moments, you're going to hear it for yourself, what happened today in the courtroom.

Also, one of CNN's most iconic shows is making a comeback. Stand by for two of our new "CROSSFIRE" hosts.


BLITZER: Another trial attracting intense national attention, the case against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch guard accused of second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin.

One of Martin's friends who was on the phone with him during the final minutes while he was still alive told the jury what she heard.


RACHEL JEANTEL, FRIEND OF TRAYVON MARTIN: I say Trayvon, and then he said, why are you following me for? And then I heard a hard-breath man come and say, what you doing around here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (OFF-MIKE) he said why are you following me for? And I then heard a hard --

JEANTEL: Breathing man saying, what you doing around here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A hard-breathing man saying?

JEANTEL: What you doing around here? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me interrupt you. Is what you just told us a conversation that you're having with Trayvon or Trayvon is having with someone else?

JEANTEL: Having with someone else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what you're hearing?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trayvon Martin complained?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was he complaining about?

JEANTEL: That a man just kept watching him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After he said that, what -- did you say anything back to him? Or did he say anything back to you?

JEANTEL: Yes. I asked him how the man looked like. And he just told me the man looked creepy. And --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said the man looked creepy?

JEANTEL: Creepy white (INAUDIBLE) cracker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And what did you say?

OK. They're having trouble hearing you. So, take your time.

JEANTEL: Creepy-ass cracker.


BLITZER: Let's get some analysis now on what happened.

Joining us, our legal correspondent Jean Casarez, who was inside the courtroom. Also joining us, our CNN senior analyst once again, Jeffrey Toobin.

She clearly, Jean is a major witness for the prosecution. How did she do in this case?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: She's a critical witness, you're so right.

Well, in the courtroom, the jurors were so focused on her. They can take notes, but I think they were trying to understand her, hear what she has to say, probably think about it in relation to other things that they have heard, because this is now a test of credibility. Do you believe George Zimmerman? Do you believe this witness?

And I think that it's going to be difficult for the jury, so they're going to revert to things like time codes on telephone calls; 7:09 p.m., that's when George Zimmerman made the non-emergency 911 call. He wasn't walking at that time. You don't hear. He says, I see somebody. He looks suspicious. He's turning around. He's looking at me. He's coming toward me.

At the very same time, she's on the phone with Trayvon Martin. And she testified today that, during that call, all George Zimmerman did was follow Trayvon through the entire time.

BLITZER: So who do you think, Jeffrey, got more of a benefit, so far, from her testimony?

TOOBIN: It's a tough call because she's a peculiar witness. The story she tells does help the prosecution, that George Zimmerman was following Trayvon Martin, bothering him, making Trayvon Martin feel uncomfortable.

But she has a lot of problems as a witness. She's hard to understand. She's young. She's nervous. And she has told falsehoods, as she acknowledged, in the past. So does the jury regard her as a teenager who is just sort of overwhelmed and told some lies at first? Or do they regard her as someone who simply can't be trusted in a criminal case? That's the challenge for both sides with this witness.

BLITZER: Jean, did you get a sense of who was helped more by her testimony?

CASAREZ: You know, we're in the middle of the cross-examination right now, and they're going to impeach her with a prior deposition, the interview she did with Benjamin Crump.

And I think the devil is going to be in the details, because you have got to look at the fine points to see if she's being credible or if she's not. And that's going to be the job of the jury.

BLITZER: And she wasn't very happy about all of this. And when they said to her, at least another two hours of cross-examination tomorrow, she clearly was irritated. How does that play, Jeffrey, on a jury?

TOOBIN: Well, you never know. It fits into the whole context, because at one level, the jurors I think understand that a kid, essentially, she's only in 12th grade, thrust into this national spotlight is going to react in an uncomfortable way.

But they also may simply say, you know what, we just can't trust her, that she's told too many different stories. So, I think you have to see how her testimony fits into everything else. But -- so I'm going to give you a ringing "I'm not sure."

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure a lot of people are just waiting to see what happens tomorrow.

Jeffrey Toobin, thank you.

Jean Casarez, we will check in with you once again tomorrow. Thanks to you as well. Up next, Michael Jackson's son Prince talks about his father's fears that his concert comeback would kill him. I will ask a former lawyer for the pop star about the testimony that we heard today.

Also, it may be the NSA leaker's best hope for asylum, unless, unless the U.S. can convince Ecuador the price is too high.


BLITZER: Happening now: a star witness in the Michael Jackson's wrongful death lawsuit, his teenaged son Prince opening up about the private moments he had with his dad.

Plus, behind-the-scenes moments at today's landmark Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage. What happened? We will show you.

And I will talk to Newt Gingrich on the right and Stephanie Cutter on the left. They are two of the hosts for the comeback of CNN's "CROSSFIRE."

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Michael Jackson was fiercely protective of his children. But today his teenaged son Prince testified in a public courtroom about his father's death and his family's private life. It was a powerful moment in the Jackson family's wrongful death lawsuit against the promoters of the pop star's comeback concert.

Let's go out to California. CNN's Tory Dunnan is joining us.

Tory, what happened?

TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, right off the top, he said that he was a little bit nervous, that he had never really done this before. And all of it lasted just under two hours, and at times it got very emotional.


DUNNAN (voice-over): For most of his childhood life, Prince Michael Jackson lived in relatively obscurity, fiercely protected by his famous father. Now the 16-year-old is at the central of a wrongful death trial against AEG Live, the music company that tried to resurrect Michael Jackson's career.


DUNNAN: During Prince's testimony, his lawyer showed intimate home videos and pictures. Birthdays.

JACKSON: I'm Daddy's baby, and I love my daddy.

DUNNAN: Christmas.

MICHAEL JACKSON, POP STAR: What's special about December 25? P. JACKSON: It's Christmas.

DUNNAN: Even teaching the kids how to sing.


DUNNAN: Dressed in a black suit and soft-spoken, Prince described his father as a nurturer and teacher. But Prince appeared to choke up when questioned about the day his father died.

He testified that the King of Pop was excited about the comeback tour. But in the weeks leading up to his death, he became really, really skinny, and his body temp would go up and down. Prince said his father would cry after phone calls saying, quote, "They're going to kill me. They're going to kill me."

According to Prince, he was referring to AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips and his ex-manager, Dr. Tomei Tomei (ph). Prince testified that Phillips visited Jackson's home and aggressively spoke to Dr. Conrad Murray the night before his father's death. Prince said, quote, "He was grabbing by the back of his elbow, and they were really close and he was making hand motions."

AEG Live denies involvement in Jackson's death, saying Dr. Murray was not an employee of theirs.

CNN's Alan Duke has extensively covered the Jackson family.

ALAN DUKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The jurors really saw the humanity of Michael Jackson in the videos, with the pictures, and found out what Prince was saying, is that he was a great dad.

DUNNAN: Since Jackson's death four years ago, his three children have emerged in the spotlight to honor their legendary father. Now Jackson's teen son is confronted with another painful chapter: in a courtroom where a jury will decide who is responsible for the death of a musical icon.


DUNNAN: And Wolf, Katherine Jackson was also in the courtroom today. A lawyer for the Jackson family said that she was extremely proud of her grandson.

Now attorneys for both sides are saying at this point, it could all go on until at least August.

BLITZER: August, wow. All right, Tory, thanks very much.

Let's bring in a former lawyer for Michael Jackson, Tom -- Thomas Mesereau. Tom, thanks very much for coming in. Did you have a clue about how much Michael Jackson spoke to his children, how much he confided to his children about what was going on?

THOMAS MESEREAU, FORMER LAWYER FOR MICHAEL JACKSON: Yes, I did, Wolf. Wolf, I became his lead criminal defense counsel nine months before the criminal trial started. I replaced attorneys Brafman and Geragos.

During those nine months, I was at Neverland quite a bit, and I observed his interaction with his children, as well as during the succeeding five and a half months of trial.

He was constantly with his children. His days revolved around his children. He was very protective, very doting. And he played with them. He read with them. He taught them. He was very protective that they not be exposed to media influences, to anything that would complicate their life or cause undue conflict in the home. He was a very devoted father. Very close with these children. They absolutely adored him.

I remember the day he was acquitted. I was at Neverland and the children were just jumping all over him and hugging him, and I'm grateful to say they did the same thing to me. Very attentive father. These children loved him, and when he passed away, they were absolutely devastated. He was a wonderful role model, a wonderful father and he just cared so much about them.

BLITZER: How key do you believe these two kids, Prince and Paris, are to this case, to this trial?

MESEREAU: They're very important. First of all, they're plaintiffs. I mean, they're suing AEG. It's Katherine and Michael's three children. So they're plaintiffs. They're major prayers in the case.

This testimony was so powerful in and of itself. But Wolf, you also have to judge it in conjunction with what happened before today. They -- the jury just heard from a professor at Stanford who's an expert on medical ethics. And this witness testified that AEG had a relationship with Conrad Murray that put them in a terrible conflict of interest. He said it was one of the most egregious conflicts of interest he'd seen.

AEG in emails is pressuring Conrad Murray, reminding him who's paying his salary. And he's a medical doctor who's responsible to his patient. But he's being pressured by the corporation that's paying him.

When you take the testimony of Prince today, and you put that in conjunction with what this professor said from Stanford, it's very powerful testimony for the plaintiffs and, I think, very fatal to AEG.

BLITZER: Did Michael Jackson ever confide in you and say he was fearful of his life?

MESEREAU: I told me he was fearful of his life many times. He was fearful of the people he thought had conspired to bring this criminal case against him, and he would call me at 3 or 4 in the morning during the trial, tearful about what could happen to his children.

He was always very concerned that people were conspiring to take his wealth, take his catalog. That people had instigated a false criminal prosecution with the district attorney to try and take him down, that they wanted him in prison so they could sue him and he wouldn't be able to fight back. But always the major fear for him was what all this could do to his wonderful children who he loved so much.

BLITZER: Tom Mesereau, joining us from L.A. Tom, thanks very much for coming in.

MESEREAU: Thank you for having me, Wolf. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: Up next, will the NSA leaker get asylum in Ecuador? We're going to tell you why the country's leaders might be willing to defy the United States.

And I'll speak, coming up with two of the hosts, the new hosts of CNN's "CROSSFIRE" reboot. There she is, Stephanie Cutter on the left, Newt Gingrich on the right.


BLITZER: Big news today for all political news junkies out there: "CROSSFIRE" -- yes, "CROSSFIRE" -- is coming back to CNN this fall. This time around, Newt Gingrich and S.E. Cupp will be our hosts on the right. Stephanie Cutter and Van Jones will host from the left.

Two of "CROSSFIRE's" new hosts, Stephanie Cutter and Newt Gingrich, are joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Congratulations to both of you. We're looking forward to "CROSSFIRE" coming back.

Let's talk about what happened today. Huge news from the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Speaker, you were one of the architects of the Defense of Marriage Act back in the '90s. The justices in a 5-4 ruling today said it was unconstitutional. Your reaction?

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, I agree with Chief Justice Roberts, who said that the court is, in effect, becoming a political -- a third political branch. The judgment of Justice Kennedy and the way in which he wrote that judgment, I think, was pretty offensive to 85 U.S. senators and an overwhelming majority of House members, and President Clinton, who signed the bill.

So I'm very concerned with the degree to which the court is, inch by inch, losing touch with whatever the judicial process is. In the second decision today, you know, eight million Californians voted. Their governor refused to uphold the law. Their attorney general refused to uphold the law, and by 5-4 the Supreme Court said eight million Californians have no standing in the U.S. Supreme Court. And we wonder why Washington is held in such low repute. So I think the process is, frankly, as important as the outcome.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Stephanie, tell him why he's wrong.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, you know, I think what the court did is reflect where the country is. And, you know, DOMA was originally passed to discriminate against a subset of the American people. And what the court essentially said today is that's wrong. You can't discriminate against a subset of the American people.

And I'm fairly certain that President Clinton is not insulted by this decision. I think he firmly agrees with it.

BLITZER: He put out a strong -- he put out a strong statement saying he regrets having signed that Defense of Marriage Act into law, as you know, Mr. Speaker.

BLITZER: Sure, there's no question the country's mood today is different than it was in the mid-1990s. The question is, is that a decision best left up to the American people, in the election process? Or should five judges be the people who decide what America is all about? I think it's dangerous to have five judges with that level of power.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Stephanie.

CUTTER: Well, I think that it's not dangerous for the court to jump in when something is wrong with a judgment that Congress are making or when anybody is making them.

I think the country has moved significantly since DOMA was passed. I think many of us believe that DOMA was wrong to begin with. But the country has moved, and I think the court was reflecting that movement. That, you know, dozens of states right now allow Americans to get married, gay Americans to get married. What happens to those people? They're denied very important benefits under DOMA.

GINGRICH: And where we disagree, I think, is that's a process that should be handled by the American people politically.

And it's not just a question of this particular case. The U.S. Supreme Court again and again, has one person, 4-4 and then one person gets to be, in effect, a constitutional convention.

When they decided that in Plessy vs. Ferguson, they created Jim Crow laws for almost 80 years. When they decided that in Dred Scott on slavery, they created a civil war. It's very dangerous to have a Supreme Court decide it's a political body and invent a Constitution to fit this year's polls.

CUTTER: Well, at the same time, some of the nation's greatest decisions were ahead of where Congress was, to insure that people had basic rights and liberties under our Constitution. So there is another way to look at it.

GINGRICH: That's right. That's --

CUTTER: And a lot of the progress this country has made is as a result of courts taking action when others don't.

GINGRICH: And there are times when the courts have been totally wrong. And I just think it's -- this may be one of the basic things we'll come back to again and again on "CROSSFIRE."

I believe that a cautious judiciary preserves freedom. And a risk- taking judiciary sets up a system. And again, think about the eight million people in California. Not about this -- the substance of the decision. But eight million people went, they voted in a referendum. They've now been told by the court they have no standing.

CUTTER: So -- so on that same token, if a state through a referendum, the people of the state vote in favor of gay marriage, then you must support that.

GINGRICH: I think it's the right process, and in places where they have done so, I've said that's the law of the land. And I think that we have to recognize that we're coming to grips. I don't think -- my personal judgment, I think marriage is between a man and a woman. I think that's actually defined by religion, and I don't think the legislatures change religion.

But I think a legislature that adopts as a legal practice. Because if they do it through the law and if they do it with the people consenting, then that is what the process of self-government is all about.

CUTTER: And those marriages should be recognized.

GINGRICH: And I think in those states they are recognized.

CUTTER: And they should be given the same federal benefits that every other married couple have.

GINGRICH: Actually, that should have been decided in the Congress. Now if you'll notice in this session, you have four and four, and one person becomes a constitutional convention. And if they wake up in the morning and go "yes," they've rewritten the Constitution one way; they wake up in the morning and go "no," they've rewritten the Constitution another way. That's a very unstable way for a free country --

CUTTER: Do you think that Congress will take action to try to reverse this decision?


CUTTER: Do you think that the current Congress has the ability to do that?

GINGRICH: No, I don't. I'm not sure the current Congress has the ability to do much of everything.

CUTTER: That's right. But I also believe that a majority of that Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, don't believe in putting DOMA back in place.

GINGRICH: So I'm glad -- I'm just saying, I think this particular Congress, you're not likely to see do a lot of things --

CUTTER: I agree with that.

GINGRICH: They would probably be better off to focus on some major things like getting to a balanced budget.

CUTTER: Or immigration reform. GINGRICH: Immigration reform.

BLITZER: Questions to both of you, starting with you, Mr. Speaker. What are you looking forward to the most about being one of the co- hosts of "CROSSFIRE"?

GINGRICH: You know, Wolf, a long, long time ago I was on "CROSSFIRE" a lot as a young congressman. It was exciting; it was fact-oriented. It had very smart people as guests. And people tuned in because they learned something. Not, they didn't just learn, you know, conservative talking points or liberal talking points. They watched interesting smart people try to understand what America should be doing.

I have hopes and I think that, with Stephanie as a debating partner, if you will, it's going to be a lot of fun. I think we can recreate that original "CROSSFIRE" sense, that this is the place to be if you want to hear people really talk about the facts and the issues, not just about talking points and yelling at each other.

BLITZER: What do you think, Stephanie? What are you looking forward to?

CUTTER: Well, I grew up watching "CROSSFIRE." It was one of the things that got me hooked on politics in the first place. And, you know, I think that the speaker is right. We can have a discussion here. Both -- both sides of the issues are going to be represented. It's one of the first place -- only places on TV that you can get that.

And we can have an informed, balanced discussion about the issues facing Americans on a daily basis. And I'm looking forward to having that discussion. And it's not talking points, and it's not political jabs. It's differences of opinion and finding areas where maybe we can agree.

BLITZER: We're looking forward -- we're looking forward to "CROSSFIRE." But go ahead, make a final point, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: Well, my point was going to be I hope when people watch us at the end, they may not have been convinced by either one of us. But they say, "You know, that's really worth thinking about and that's something the next morning at coffee, they say, 'Hey, did you see last night'" -- whether it's my point or her point; obviously I hope my point. But they go "Wow, this was interesting and I've got to think about it differently than I planned to."

BLITZER: We'll see "CROSSFIRE" coming back to CNN later this year in the fall. Looking forward to it.

By the way, all four of the new hosts of "CROSSFIRE" will be on Piers Morgan live later tonight. Not only Stephanie and the speaker, but S.E. Cupp and Van Jones. We're looking forward to that, as well.

Good luck, guys.

CUTTER: Thank you.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll have the latest on the NSA leaker's search for a safe haven and the price Ecuador -- yes, Ecuador -- might pay if it grants him asylum.


BLITZER: The pressure is now building on Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked secrets about the NSA's spying.

For now, he remains still at the Moscow airport. But the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, says the sooner Snowden selects his final destination point, the better for everyone.

A senior Obama administration official tells CNN Ecuador appears to be avoiding some high-level discussions about granting Snowden asylum.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is taking a closer look at what the United States can do to try to persuade the Ecuadorians to say no.

What are you learning, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, billions of dollars in trade will buy the U.S. a bit of leverage here. But the final decision could come down to ego and how one president wants to be portrayed.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Edward Snowden may remain a man without a home. Officials in Ecuador are in no rush to approve or deny his request for asylum.

EFRAIN BAUS, DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION, ECUADORAN EMBASSY (through translator): It would take approximately two months to make a final decision.

LAWRENCE: Obama administration officials say time is on their side. And the longer Snowden sits in a Moscow airport transit zone, the more of a hot potato he becomes. One U.S. official tells CNN, "We're not at the point of making threats yet. We're reserving the harder line until we know if the Ecuadorians are willing to take him in."

PATRICK VENTRELL, STATE DEPARTMENT ACTING SPOKESMAN: We are advising these governments, and that includes Ecuador, that Mr. Snowden is wanted on felony charges and, as such, he should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel.

LAWRENCE: And that's coming from Ecuador's largest trading partner. The U.S. imports nearly $10 billion of Ecuador's goods a year, about 40 percent of their global commerce.

CARL MEACHAM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: So it's not a drop in the bucket. It's something that's important to them.

LAWRENCE: So why would Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, risk it? Analyst Carl Meacham says for the glory of openly defying the U.S.

MEACHAM: Ecuador providing asylum to Edward Snowden would guarantee President Correa's spot as the inheritor of the mantle of Fidel Castro, of Hugo Chavez. He sees himself as the natural successor to these two figures.

LAWRENCE: But the U.S. also gives Ecuador special trade preferences for hundreds of millions of dollars. It effects certain fruits and nuts and fresh-cut roses. Americans benefit from lower prices on these items in U.S. stores, and if not renewed, the agreement expires at the end of July. It's a huge part of Ecuador's economy.

MEACHAM: If they decide to give asylum to Mr. Snowden, that's the death nail in the coffin to -- to the trade or the tariff agreement with Ecuador.


LAWRENCE: Remember, Ecuador took two full months to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. They appear to be giving themselves just as much time to make a final decision here that could have huge repercussions for both Ecuador and the U.S., Wolf.

BLITZER: See what they do. Chris, thank you.

Up next, how supporters of same-sex marriage are celebrating.


BLITZER: Jeanne Moos has been watching the gay marriage celebrations all day.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the day that gays literally kissed the Defense of Marriage Act good-bye --


MOOS: -- and they kissed it good-bye --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you sense a change?

MOOS: -- all over TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on the size of this ruling.

MOOS: As photographers jostled --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, dude, come on, man, give me a shot. MOOS: -- to record every peck, every public display of affection.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, they're holding a kiss-out in front.

MOOS: It was equality versus the equation "marriage equals one man plus one woman." But forget math. Reading was what reporters had to resort to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shannon, I know you're reading as fast as you can.

MOOS: And the reporters were dependent on runners to get them the decisions. BuzzFeed labeled it "the running of the interns."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here comes our intern now with the decision.

MOOS: Some ran triumphantly with armed upraised. Others opted for dignity: a stiff-legged walk. BuzzFeed gave the gold medal to this intern, who arrived at his camera first. Apparently, he had lots of practice earlier in the week, running other decisions.

Reporters needed eyes in the back of their heads.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: With all of the energy and action behind you --

MOOS: First we worried there was going to be too much action when we saw a guy stripping behind Joe Johns. It turns out he was only reversing his shirt. Soon he was replaced by Mr. Sunglasses --

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A powerful electric moment.

MOOS: -- who proceed to stroll around screen right to left, left to right, right up the middle on his cell, signing off with a thumbs up.

JOHNS: And as you know, Ashleigh --

MOOS: There was an-on camera marriage proposal from one of the plaintiffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can finally say, "Will you please marry me?"


MOOS: Another plaintiff in the DOMA suit was asked what her spouse, who had passed away, would say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "You did it, honey."

MOOS: While MSNBC was interviewing these two plaintiffs live --

CHRIS PERRY, PLAINTIFF: -- to feel equal.

MOOS: -- a frantic gesture signaled a phone call.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president is on the line from Air Force One. President Obama. Go ahead.

PERRY: Hello, Mr. President. This is Chris Perry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thank you so much for your support.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And thank you for your leadership. You're invited to the wedding.


MOOS: Gay wedding invite? What's next?

LEMON: If you haven't been to a gay bar, you're about to go to one.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did I think? I just -- I started bawling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): God bless America --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): God bless America --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): God bless America --

MOOS: -- New York.


BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.