CNN Panel Overwhelmingly Argues in Favor of Same-Sex 'Marriage'

Roland Martin, CNN Anchor; Erica Hill, CNN Correspondent; Jessica Yellin, CNN Correspondent; Lisa Bloom, TruTV host; & Steve Kornacki, New York Observer Columnist | NewsBusters.orgCNN’s Roland Martin on Wednesday’s “No Bias, No Bull” program featured another panel which leaned overwhelmingly to the left, during a discussion about the California Supreme Court upholding Proposition 8. Four of the five participants -- CNN correspondent Erica Hill, Lisa Bloom of TruTv, New York Observer columnist Steve Kornacki, and the Reverend Byron Williams of Resurrection Community Church in Oakland, California all sided with advocates of same-sex “marriage.”

Rev. Williams, who is affiliated with the liberal People for the American Way, argued that the decision “seems to go against our democratic values.” Hill asked the pastor, “Should that decision on marriage be left up to different religions, different faiths to make, and leave this to be more of a civil matter? And if that’s the case, why should God enter it at all?” Kornacki argued that there was an “inevitability” to the legalization of same-sex “marriage,” explaining that “you’ve got four states legalizing it. You’ve got people under 35 supporting it overwhelmingly. I mean, isn’t this just really a question of time, and we shouldn’t be that exercised about it?” Bloom thought that it was a “huge civil rights issue, and this is the first court ruling that I’m aware of that says that a majority vote -- a bare majority vote, can take away the constitutional rights of a protected minority group.”

As the segment began, the network played a clip from “Love is a Battlefield” by ‘80s pop star Pat Benatar. Martin, who is in his last week as anchor of the program, introduced his media colleagues on the panel, and gave a brief bio of Reverend Williams. The anchor did refreshingly include how the pastor is “a member of a group called African-American Ministers in Action, which is a product of the liberal-leaning organization People for the American Way.” Before going to the rest of the panel, he asked correspondent Jessica Yellin for an update on the litigation involving Proposition 8. He then turned to Rev. Williams and asked, “Prop 8 passed by a majority, in part, because of support from some minority groups, especially African-American [unintelligible] in California. Do you think there’s a divide between the gay community and other minority groups?”

Roland Martin, CNN Anchor; & the Revernd Byron Williams, Pastor, Resurrection Community Church, Oakland, California | NewsBusters.orgThe pastor minimized any divide between the two groups: “Prop 8 was defeated in practically every county in California except for those on the coast. So there’s no large black population in the inland valley per, so I think it’s overstated. With that said, I would also say that homophobia definitely exists within the black church. There’s a lot of work -- like the group I’m working with, People for the American Way -- that we have to do to sort of debunk that, so to change some of those existing feelings.”

Hill then posed her “should God enter it at all” question to Rev. Williams, who replied, “I think you make a great point...we’re talking about civil rights. So we’re not talking about a religious issue. And so then, we’re talking -- if we’re talking about civil rights, now we have to go back to the equal protection under the law clause, which I think clearly this denies....It seems to go against our democratic values.”  Kornacki subsequently followed up by asking, among other things, “In the big picture, isn’t there sort of inevitability to all of this?”

As you might expect, the pastor agreed: “Oh, I think you’re absolutely right. The trajectory, regardless of what side of the issue you’re on, is definitely headed toward full marriage equality for [the] gay, lesbian, transgender community.”

The segment concluded with Bloom voicing her opinion on the issue: “I think it’s a huge civil rights issue, and this is the first court ruling that I’m aware of that says that a majority vote -- a bare majority vote, can take away the constitutional rights of a protected minority group. You know, Brown versus Board of Education was very unpopular at the time. It wasn’t up for a majority vote, and not -- neither have any of the civil rights of American minorities ever been up for a popular vote. That’s the beauty of our constitutional system.”

The full transcript of the segment, which began 43 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour of Wednesday’s “No Bias, No Bull” program:

ROLAND MARTIN: The California Supreme Court may have upheld the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, but that’s certainly not the end of the story. Today, supporters of gay marriage are fighting back with a new lawsuit and talk of going back to the voters. But could a divide between the gay community and other minority groups doom the effort? Erica [Hill], Jessica [Yellin], Lisa [Bloom], and Steve [Kornacki of The New York Observer] are here, along with Reverend Byron Williams, pastor of Resurrection Community Church in Oakland [California] -- in Oakland. Reverend Williams is a member of a group called African-American Ministers in Action, which is a product of the liberal-leaning organization People for the American Way.

All right. Jessica, some new developments here?

YELLIN: Yeah. Quickly, just the news today is that first of all, this effort -- the ruling has fired up supporters of gay marriage, who have started a massive fundraising effort to get gay marriage legalized on the 2010 ballot -- so on the political front, another vote. But then in the courts today, a very odd couple got behind the push to get judges to overturn the recent ruling on Prop 8. Lawyers who argued on the opposite sides of the 2000 Bush-Gore recount -- they’ve teamed up to challenge the California ruling. So David Boies, who argued for Al Gore, and Ted Olsen, who was a Bush attorney, say they’re joining forces to show that gay marriage is a bipartisan issue. They think the courts made a wrong decision yesterday.

LISA BLOOM: You got to love that. (laughs)

YELLIN: It’s an odd couple.

BLOOM: You just do. Just because lawyers are on the opposite side of the case don’t [sic] mean that they hate each other.

MARTIN: All right -- good point. All right. Now Byron, Prop 8 passed by a majority, in part, because of support from some minority groups, especially African-American [unintelligible] in California. Do you think there’s a divide between the gay community and other minority groups?

REVEREND WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, the first thing I would say is that the attention given to the African-American community’s vote in Prop 8, I think, is a little overstated. African-Americans made up less than 10% of the -- of the voting electorate in the last election. Prop 8 was defeated in practically every county in California except for those on the coast. So there’s no large black population in the inland valley per, so I think it’s overstated. With that said, I would also say that homophobia definitely exists within the black church. There’s a lot of work -- like the group I’m working with, People for the American Way -- that we have to do to sort of debunk that, so to change some of those existing feelings.

MARTIN: And, of course, Reverend Williams, part of that was because of initial report said that 70% of African-Americans voted against [it]. But later, the folks came back and said, no, about 58%. So that’s probably one of the reasons why that came out there. Erica?

ERICA HILL: Well, just -- just in terms of religion, because there’s been so much talk about the role of religion in the -- in the votes here, and how it played out with Proposition 8. Should this be -- you’re a pastor, but should religion really come into play here, or should that decision on marriage be left up to different religions, different faiths to make, and leave this to be more of a civil matter? And if that’s the case, why should God enter it at all?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think you -- I think you make a great point, because in addition to being a pastor -- I still believe that I’m the only syndicated columnist in the country -- and I’ve been writing about this for a number of years, and I don’t think -- this is not -- it’s a civil -- we’re talking about civil rights. So we’re not talking about a religious issue. And so then, we’re talking -- if we’re talking about civil rights, now we have to go back to the equal protection under the law clause, which I think clearly this denies. In California right now, as a result of the court’s ruling, we have three class distinctions of people. We have one group who can get married, get divorced, and get remarried -- another group who can get married, get divorced, and cannot remarry -- then we got another group who can’t do either one of those things. So I don’t see how you can -- how the state can hold equal protection under the law, and these conflicting results at the same time. It seems to go against our democratic values.

STEVE KORNACKI: Reverend Williams, let me tell you -- I’ve been hearing from a lot of gay marriage supporters in the last couple days, especially in the wake of the California ruling yesterday -- a lot of just dismay and a lot of, you know, just overheated rhetoric about how, you know, awful this is. But in the big picture, isn’t there sort of inevitability to all of this? I mean, there was a similar ballot measure in California -- what, eight years ago? And it passed with 64%. Now, you’re down to 52%. Now, you’ve got four states legalizing it. You’ve got people under 35 supporting it overwhelmingly. I mean, isn’t this just really a question of time, and we shouldn’t be that exercised about it?

WILLIAMS: Oh, I think you’re absolutely right. The trajectory, regardless of what side of the issue you’re on, is definitely headed toward full marriage equality for [the] gay, lesbian, transgender community. That’s the direction, and I’ve seen polling, even recently, that has a percentage of people that -- has the majority favoring same-sex marriage now. So, this is inevitable. It is --

YELLIN: Wait -- let me interrupt for a minute and ask you, Lisa, because you’re a civil rights attorney in New York and California. What do you make of this decision? Do you think this is a civil rights issue?

BLOOM:  I think it’s a huge civil rights issue, and this is the first court ruling that I’m aware of that says that a majority vote -- a bare majority vote, can take away the constitutional rights of a protected minority group. You know, Brown versus Board of Education was very unpopular at the time. It wasn’t up for a majority vote, and not -- neither have any of the civil rights of American minorities ever been up for a popular vote. That’s the beauty of our constitutional system. So this is -- that’s why it doesn’t surprise me that Ted Olson and David Boies have joined together now to make a federal civil rights case out of it.

MARTIN: All right -- the panel, the whole table -- [unintelligible]. Reverend Williams, we certainly appreciate it. Thank you very much for joining us.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.  

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center