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Feds to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages; U.S. Star Fails to Medal in Downhill Skiing; U.S. Bobsledder Shares Tale of Busting through Bathroom Door; Iranian Warships Headed to U.S. Borders; Girlfriend of Shooter Testifies in Loud Music Trial; Lesbian Athlete Speaks out on Russian Law

Aired February 9, 2014 - 06:00   ET



ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will never stop working to ensure that equality under the law is protected by the law.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: A landmark announcement by America's top lawyer. New rights and benefits for same-sex couples, regardless of where they live.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And a huge disappointment for an American darling this morning. Why one Olympian favored for gold may never even hit the medal podium.

BLACKWELL: Fifty years ago today, the Fab Four launched an American obsession. They appeared on the "Ed Sullivan Show." One man who spent a lot of time with the Beatles in the U.S. gives us behind- the-scenes look at the Fab Four.

Your NEW DAY starts now.


PAUL: Well, Beatles music will get you going this morning. It is Sunday, so good morning to all of you either late-nighters or early risers. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. I really think that's the case on Saturday into Sunday, they're the late-nighters.

PAUL: Yes, exactly.

BLACKWELL: This is NEW DAY SUNDAY. Thanks for being with us.

PAUL: Yes. We want to begin this morning with this groundbreaking decision affecting millions of same-sex couples in every state in the nation. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that, starting tomorrow, the federal government will recognize same- sex marriages as equal to traditional marriages in all federal legal matters.


HOLDER: On Monday, I will issue a new policy memorandum that will, for the first time in history, formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful, same-sex marriages full and equal recognition to the greatest extent possible under the law.


PAUL: So here's what that means. It includes survivor benefits for first responders killed on duty. Bankruptcy filings, prison visitation rights, and the right to refuse to testify against a spouse.

BLACKWELL: And this is huge. In making the announcement, Holder called the fight for gay rights a, quote, "defining civil rights challenge of our time."

CNN justice reporter Evan Perez is with us by phone now. Evan, I'm reading about this, and he just said that on Monday, the Justice Department will issue a memo. How did all this happen?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, Victor, this is all part of the fall-out from the Defense of Marriage Act being overturned last year by the Supreme Court. The Justice Department has been giving legal advice to various parts of the government on how they need to change their policies, to fit in with that ruling.

The IRS now allows same-sex couples to file as joint returns, as married couples. The military is now offering benefits to same-sex spouses in the military. And so now this is going to extend this to all parts of the legal -- the legal system of the United States; the federal legal system of the United States, I should say.

It does not affect states that don't recognize same-sex marriages. It doesn't change their laws. And so in state courts and in state matters, it won't affect those. But there's a large part of the country, obviously, that will be affected. Everything, as you mentioned, from bankruptcies to survivor benefits, and even the right to not have to testify against your spouse in a criminal matter, for instance. You know, a married couple has a right to refuse to provide incriminating evidence against your spouse. And now this right is extended to same-sex couples, as well.

PAUL: OK. So Evan, you'll need to clarify. Because I think a lot of people are waking up this morning, and if they are in a same- sex partnership or their families have them, they're wondering, what are my rights in these states, these 34 states where our marriages aren't legal? I mean, how do you say -- I mean, I know it's benefits, but how does that -- how does that affect them?

PEREZ: Well, you know, the human rights campaign through the group that the attorney general was speaking to last night hailed this as something that's going to affect innumerable number of people around the country. Because now what it means is, if you get married in Massachusetts or in the District of Columbia, which has same-sex marriage, but you move to a state that doesn't have it. You can have the assurance if you go to a federal court, you'll be recognized as married, even if that state doesn't have it. You can have the assurance that you can go to a federal court, you're going to be recognized as married, even if that state doesn't have it.

So it does change the lives for a lot of people. It gives them some safety in that they can move around the country and not have to worry about their rights being curtailed.

BLACKWELL: CNN justice reporter Evan Perez with us on the phone. Evan, thank you so much. We'll continue this conversation throughout the day.

There are a lot of questions from people who are protecting, they say, traditional marriage. We heard from the National Organization of Marriage, criticizing this as undermining the authority and sovereignty of the states, to regulate marriage. We'll talk more about what this means for same-sex couples and some of the criticism.

PAUL: Right. Right. And legally, with Congress and courts, you know, are they going to be able to reverse it in some ways. So we're going to talk about that as the morning goes on.

But listen, we do want to talk about this major upset, too, at the Winter Olympics for a U.S. star. And let me give you the spoiler alert here. We're about to tell you some of the results of the Olympics that have not yet been broadcast, so you can turn your sound down here for a minute if you don't want to know yet.

BLACKWELL: All right. You ready?

PAUL: Don't want to spoil it for you.

BLACKWELL: Here it is. Bode Miller took a disappointing eighth place in the men's downhill skiing competition. This guy is a five- time Olympic medalist. He had been favored to win the event.

PAUL: Yes, overall. And new this morning, too, another gold medal for the U.S. Jamie Anderson took gold in the women's slope style. She's the third American to medal so far. Sage Kotsenburg taking gold in the men's slope style and Hannah Kearney taking bronze in women's mogul.

BLACKWELL: Here's the bigger picture. The U.S. is tied in third place in the overall medal standings. Norway at the top of those, leading the pack with five medals.

PAUL: You've got to see this video. This reminds me that I am no longer 15, but she is. Figure skater accomplishing, look at that spin, people! Fifteen-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia. Got it. She's from Russia, of course, in the team figure skating competition. That's a new event, by the way. Russia's in first place -- you think? -- in that competition so far?

BLACKWELL: You know, I just wonder how after that spin, you don't just stand up and go, wait, OK, give me just a second.

PAUL: Or you don't just finish that spin and go, "OK, I'm done."

BLACKWELL: That's the end of it, right.

PAUL: "That's done. I'm finished. Go -- go beat that."

BLACKWELL: Let's turn now to CNN's Rachel Nichols in Sochi with the latest. You know, that was an amazing spin, but Bode Miller, what happened, Rachel?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very disappointing for Bode. The downhill is his best event. And he had been seriously nearly perfect in the training runs.

But it was bright and sunny when he was training here in Sochi. Today, a little bit different. It's much more overcast, the visibility a lot different here.

Still, he got off to a great start. He had a fantastic first split time, but he had trouble in the middle and the bottom of the course. He hit a gate, and you should have seen him when he crossed the finish line, guys, slumped over, then sat on his skis for a while. He was clearly just crushed. Knew he had messed things up. Wasn't going to even medal here.

Now, he does have other events, still has other chances for a medal, but this was the one that he was thinking of, and unfortunately, not going to happen for him here in Sochi.

PAUL: All righty. Well, Rachel, I understand you talked to a guy that has really been on everybody's radar for the last 24 hours, because of this picture from U.S. bobsledder Johnny Quinn, who had to bust through his bathroom door after he was locked inside. What did he tell you?

NICHOLS: Yes, you know, he says that he went in to take a shower, and it's just become an infamous story around the athlete's village. This is a story everyone is talking about. And he said, he didn't lock the door. He was alone in his room. He has a roommate, but the roommate wasn't there. He said he didn't take a phone.

It turns out when he got out of the shower, he said he realized he didn't even have a towel. And he went to reach for the door, and the door was jammed. And they've had a problem with some of the doors here, people getting locked in their rooms and bathrooms. Bad time for him to happen to him, though. He told me all about it.


JOHNNY QUINN, U.S. OLYMPIC BOBSLEDDER: My neighbors or my two other teammates on the bobsled, so I was banging on the wall, trying to get their attention, and nothing.

NICHOLS: Did not happen.

QUINN: And nothing. So...

NICHOLS: Did you have a panicked moment? I mean...

QUINN: Not so much a panic, because I had running water, and -- but, you know, I had nothing. And I was sitting there, banging on random parts of the wall, see if I could, you know, catch somebody's attention. And as I'm banging on random parts, you know, going around the bathroom, and so I kind of hit the door, and it cracks. And so you know, I go a little bit harder, and my fist goes through the door. And so...

NICHOLS: Are you surprised at that?

QUINN: Well...

NICHOLS: Do you normally punch through doors?

QUINN: No, no, no, no, no. So I see light, and I was like, OK, it's time to get out of here now.


NICHOLS: Guys, they're moving up to the mountains after this, or he's leaving that room. The USA hockey team, though, is going to go into those rooms. These are NHL players. He said he did leave them with a new door. So at least they won't have to deal with his old door after all of this.

PAUL: All righty. Rachel Nichols, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Here's another story folks have been talking about, and it's breaking overnight. Iran says it's sending a message to the U.S., and it is using its warships to do it.

PAUL: A top Iranian admiral says that the Iranian military fleet is steaming toward U.S. waters.

Now CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is with us by phone right now from Washington.

Barbara, thank you so much for being with us. What message is Iran sending?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, good morning.

They may be sending a message, but by all accounts, the U.S. doesn't think they're sending their ships. I just want to bring you up to date.

I've spoken to a U.S. military official who says there's no operational information, in his words, that any Iranian warships are steaming towards the United States.

The Iranians made this statement basically, the U.S. believes, as a statement of their political power, their military power. They've often said they're not happy about the U.S. Navy having ships in the Persian Gulf. So they'll send ships towards the U.S. But the actual facts are, it might be something very tough for them to carry out. It's pretty complicated to send ships for very long distances, for long periods of time, supplying the crew, supplying the ship.

Right now, the U.S. doesn't seem to think the Iranians are about to do it. They do think it's a statement, but not a fact just yet.

BLACKWELL: So, Barbara, I've read that in 2011, Iran twice announced that they were sending warships to the U.S. maritime borders. Is this a response to the U.S. beefing up its presence in the Persian Gulf? Are these two correlated?

STARR: You know, that's probably a good bet that the Iranians are sort of making this statement for their own political domestic, inside their own country, purposes, to demonstrate their strength. You're absolutely right. They've said it before. They've not been able to carry through on it.

But I think it's also important to remember, what everybody's talking about is international waters, 12 miles off someone's coastline. And the legality of it is the Iranians have every right to operate in international waters, just like the U.S. does around the world, just like many navies do around the world. It would be a problem if they were in U.S. coastal waters, inside that 12-mile limit. But international waters, it's their perfect right to operate wherever they choose.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll see if this announcement comes to some actual plan of fruition. Barbara Starr, thank you.

Still to come on NEW DAY, really emotional testimony in the so- called loud music murder trial.




PAUL: Michael Dunn's fiancee, giving a chilling account of what happened the night police say he gunned down an unarmed Florida teen.


BLACKWELL: Sixteen after the hour now.

Tomorrow, jurors will return to a Florida courtroom to hear more testimony in that so-called loud music murder trial. Michael Dunn is accused of killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis after a dispute at a gas station in 2012.

PAUL: Dunn's fiancee -- look at her here -- she fought back tears yesterday, as she gave jurors a play-by-play of what happened that night.

CNN's Tory Dunnan is following the trial in Jacksonville.

Good morning, Tory.

TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, court is in recess, but day three of the Michael Dunn trial proved to be an emotional one. His fiance took the stand and described the night the shooting took place as lasting forever.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you hear?

ROUER: I heard pop, pop, pop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when you heard those noises, did you know what they were?

ROUER: No, I didn't.


DUNNAN (voice-over): Michael Dunn's fiancee cried as she recalled the moment she knew something was wrong. Surveillance video shown in court captured Rhonda Rouer's reaction as she shopped inside the convenience store.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone's shooting! Someone's shooting out of their car.

DUNNAN: She said she had no idea who was shooting, but minutes earlier, she and Dunn pulled up next to a red SUV playing loud music. Seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis and his friends were inside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the defendant say anything about the music when he parked the car next to the red car?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what did the defendant say?

ROUER: "I hate that thug music."

DUNNAN: Rouer testified she and Dunn left the scene, never calling police.

MICHAEL DUNN, ON TRIAL FOR SHOOTING: I shouldn't have even left the scene, but I left the scene, because I was still afraid.

DUNNAN: By his own admission, Dunn says he pulled out a gun he kept in his gun compartment after arguing with the occupants of the SUV about the loud music, the same gun shown in court by prosecutors, and that he fired in self-defense after he says he heard threats and saw a weapon. That's when Jordan Davis was fatally shot.

Rouer testified they checked into a hotel and ordered a pizza. She says they sat by the elevator, believing police were coming, but then went to bed and woke up to this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you happen to see something on the news?

ROUER: Yes, I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that point in time, did you learn that a teenager had been killed at the Gate gas station?

ROUER: Yes, I did.

DUNNAN: Rouer says they then drove home to get everything in order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you tell them that it was your fault for going home, because of what you testified to today?

ROUER: Yes, I did.


DUNNAN: Victor and Christi, court will be back in session at 9 a.m. on Monday. An attorney for Jordan Davis's family tells us they don't expect this trial to go beyond next week.

PAUL: Tory Dunnan, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: You know, there's been a lot of international criticism and pushback over Russia's anti-gay laws. Some people even called for a boycott of the Sochi games. But an openly gay Austrian athlete says people are overreacting.


PAUL: Twenty-two minutes past the hour right now, and new this morning, from the Winter Olympics. An Olympic ski jumper, who happens to be gay, from Austria, speaking out on Russia's anti-gay laws. Now, this may not be what you're expecting here.

BLACKWELL: We've heard so many people criticize the anti-gay laws there in Russia. CNN's senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, joins us now from Sochi. What is she saying?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, after all this uproar, we're getting some positive signals not only from this one athlete and also from the Russian organizing committee.

Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, she's a women's ski jumper. She is married to another woman, and in a press conference today, she was asked about this anti-gay propaganda law, and she said, you know, this has been blown out of proportion. She has gotten a good welcome here, and she wants to focus on the sport.

In the meantime, we've also gotten some signals from the Russian organizing committee. For instance, their decision to feature a Russian pop duo that was famous a couple of years ago. It's called tA Tu for really putting on a bit of a lesbian show. This is the band tA Tu. They played at the pre-opening ceremony, and some of our viewers may remember them from one of their hits from a few years ago.

We're going to play a little bit of that music video. So it's a sign that perhaps the Russians recognize that this has been a bit of a public relations fiasco. Various calls from the LBGT community for boycotts of the Sochi 2014 games, and that the Russians may have been trying to also send a signal of tolerance to perhaps try to calm down some of the uproar and controversy -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Ivan Watson, thanks so much for breaking it all down for us. We appreciate it.

And still to come on NEW DAY, that controversial George Zimmerman DMX fight, called off.


PAUL: We have the details for you.

BLACKWELL: Plus, a convoy delivering food and medicine to civilians in a Syrian city comes under attack. A live report coming up from the besieged city of Homs, ahead.


PAUL: Up and at 'em. It is 6:28, and Sunday is calling your name. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Can they possibly have maybe another hour or so before they have to get out of bed? Come on.

PAUL: They can call your name, but you can ignore it.

BLACKWELL: Five things you need to know for your new day now.

PAUL: No. 1, starting tomorrow, the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages as equal to traditional marriages in all federal legal matters. Now Attorney General Eric Holder made this announcement last night. The change applies to every state in the nation, including the 34 states where same-sex marriage isn't legal.

PAUL: We don't want to ruin it for you, so if you're going to watch the events in the evening, turn away for a moment. We're about to tell you about the Olympic results that have not yet been broadcast.

All right, so this morning, Team USA's Jamie Anderson has won the gold medal for women's slope style. That's the second gold and third medal for the U.S. But today we saw a huge disappointment. Olympic star Bode Miller finished eighth in men's downhill skiing, and he had been favored to win gold.

PAUL: No. 3, that controversial George Zimmerman-DMX fight is no more. It's been called off. The boxing promoter behind the bout made the decision overnight, apparently, and in a statement to CNN just moments ago, Damon Feldman said he was tempted to go through with it for the money, but, quote, "It was hurting too many people. That's just not the direction I want to go. I don't care how much money I could have made on this," unquote.

Now, Feldman is promising to hold a press conference. It's apparently going to happen on Tuesday.