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Northeast Braces for Another Winter Storm; U.S. Speedskaters Cleared to Switch Suits; NFL Names More Bullies, Victims in Miami Dolphins Harassment Case; Virginia Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Aired February 15, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Take a nice big breath, Valentine is over. The pressure is off. Now you just get to go buy chocolate for 50 percent off.


PAUL: That's your chocolate of choice?

BLACKWELL: That's my heart.

PAUL: I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell, 7:00 here on the East Coast.


And come on, winter, I mean it just does not end.

PAUL: Old man winter is busy. He's got things to do and he's making it known to us, right? Especially you folks in the Midwest and Northeast. There's more snow coming for you today; 165,000 power customers, they're still in the dark. They're still waiting to get the lights back on. Of course, that might be better than getting stuck in traffic.

Look at this 100-car pileup yesterday. It blocked one side of the Pennsylvania turnpike near Philadelphia and 17 people were injured.

BLACKWELL: Now, folks, who are not traveling by road but by planes they can expect the word "canceled" next to more flights at the airport. More than 500 already canceled today.

And as CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti explains, a lot of travelers are running out of patience.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As airlines work to clear cancellation and delay boards and get passengers back on the move this morning, Madison Wolf and her mother who have been stranded and sleeping at Charlotte's airport hope to get to their final destination, the Junior Olympic competition in Portland, Oregon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very frustrating, I've been preparing for a long time. It's frustrating not to get there for this.

CANDIOTTI: Their story was repeated at airports all along the East Coast this week. More than 6,500 flights were canceled Thursday, more than 1,700 flights on Friday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what was necessary because this storm was so broad. And impacted so many key cities, and so that's really why those numbers get so big.

CANDIOTTI: Add to that, thousands of delays.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our original flight was earlier this morning and was delayed and still is, apparently, but it won't let us get a ticket because our connecting flight out of the Philadelphia is probably rescheduled. So we're in line to actually talk to an agent.

CANDIOTTI: From Charlotte and Newark hit with the most cancellations, to Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C., airports are trying to get back to normal for the long holiday weekend. And airlines are trying to catch up. Some passengers are frustrated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying get our flight rescheduled to Atlanta which has been canceled like three or four times, you know. And, basically, we're going through hell trying to get another flight.

CANDIOTTI: While others are taking the situation in stride.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is what it is, we prepared for the worse. The other flight, we'll be ready to go.


BLACKWELL: Susan joins us from LaGuardia.

Susan, we saw Madison and her mom were sleeping there at the airport. What are the airlines doing for the people stuck?

CANDIOTTI: Well, you know, the days where they used to give you vouchers to stay at a hotel, get discounted rates, those are more rare than they ever have been before. The airlines are trying to head all of this off by giving you notice ahead of time that your flight is going to be delayed to give you the opportunity to reschedule. More often than not, they're waiving any change fees so that you avoid that.

And if you can't make the flight at all, you should be able to get a refund. If you can't, don't take no for an answer, push it, push it, push it.

Victor, I'm happy to say, and Christi as well, a lot of people I'm running into this morning are on regularly scheduled flights, these people, I'm so jealous of them, are going on vacation to Mexico, some to the Dominican Republic. Some on skiing vacations. So, there is an indication that things are getting a little bit better. But there are still people who are held up. We're going show you it's kind of busy out here. And inside you can see as well, people are getting in line early. The earlier you get to the airport, you get those earlier flights, the better off you will always be because things always tend to back up as the day goes on. We are hearing the latest is that the backups are concentrated mainly in Newark, at Dulles and Washington, D.C. and also in Charlotte -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: At least they're not as widespread as yesterday and Thursday. Susan Candiotti, thank you so much.

PAUL: Victor knows that because he just got back from the beach himself. We're wondering if you're going to make it.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I just got back from Costa Rica. It was good time there. It was good time.

PAUL: That's what it was.

And, Jennifer Gray, it was good timing. While you and I are here --

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know. I'm so jealous. So is everyone in the East Coast because we are seeing another storm. The good news is it's not going to be as bad as it's last one. Yes, we'll see snow, we'll see a couple inches but it's going to be nothing compared to what we saw a couple days ago.

Blizzard warning for the cape. The rest of us are seeing the winter storm warnings. Winter weather advisories. The rain is starting to push into D.C. keyword -- rain. It's going to be mainly a rain event for you. We're going to be seeing the snow push into places like Boston and New York City as we go through the next couple of hours as well.

So, throughout the afternoon, we'll see the snow come down along the coast. It's going to be a quick-mover. This is going to move on out by the wee hours of tomorrow morning, ending in northern Maine where we're going to see quite a bit of snow there. As far as snow totals go, around New York City, Boston, we'll see two to four inches, east of Boston, near the cape, we'll see six to 10, the highest amounts in northern Maine with about a foot of snow.

PAUL: All right. Jennifer, thank you so much.

GRAY: All right.

PAUL: You know, snow is welcome, of course, in Sochi at this point. And the U.S. speed skating team, we understand now they have gotten the go ahead to switch suits. Remember, some of them are blaming the mach 39 suits for slowing them down.

This is why -- so far no American has finished better than seventh place. And the world leaders are on the U.S. team.

BLACKWELL: Now, now the maker Under Armour defended the suits saying the athletes tested them before the Olympics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN HALEY, UNDER ARMOUR: We actually had the first athletes skating in the suit in November. And just every step along the way, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Like oh, my God, the suit is so fast, get it off of me before any of our competition sees it.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Rachel Nichols, host of "UNGUARDED" is live in Sochi.

Rachel, so the speed skaters got the clearance, but what -- will they actually switch suits?

RACHEL NICHOLS, "UNGUARDED" HOST: Yes, they have to do it as a team. Not just individual skater can do on their own. So they had a vote and there was dissension the president of Under Armour said, some athletes really liked the new suit. But majority ruled and majority decided to switch back to the old suits. That's what you'll see them in.

And one of the American coaches met with the media, he said, although be, whether it is a design issue or whether it's just in their heads, it doesn't really matter. He said once the skater thinks he's faster in the old suit that's the one you got to put him in, because, really, they have to be comfortable when they're racing around here.

So, the coach said, look, it could just be a mental thing, but even if it is, it's an important change.

PAUL: OK. Let me ask you this, what reason are they giving for believing the suit is the problem?

NICHOLS: Well, there's a lot of different versions that they go into this new suit. But one of main issue is that there's venting in the back of the newer suit. The new suit has this venting to allow heat to escape. It's actually supposed to make you faster. And, hey, some athletes think it does.

But other athletes are say that's creating a little bit of drag. In that venting some air is getting caught up in it and creating that drag in races that are decided by hundredths of a second. So that venting is an issue.

One of the top skaters in the world worried about her performance ahead of this event after seeing what happened to some of her compatriots. Her name is Heather Richardson. She actually had them sew in some extra material to try to stop in that venting before her race. That didn't work. She's number one in the world and yet she still placed seventh here.

So, all kind of adjustments and tweaks, nothing has helped them. So they're just going to go back to the old suits, whether it is the venting or in their head, they figure hey, change is good. They're in danger as the worst U.S. skating team in 30 years, guys. BLACKWELL: Rachel Nichols, hopefully, they can turn it around. Thank you.

PAUL: Speaking of turning it around, let me ask you a question: do you believe in miracles? That was the question from Al Michaels just two seconds before the U.S. men's hockey team beat the Soviet Union. You remember it back in 1980 Winter Olympics? There was more at stake than a medal here.

BLACKWELL: Our next guest knows that better than anyone. Mike Eruzione joins us live to take us back to that miracle on ice. You do not want to miss this. So, stay with us.



PAUL: Come on, I got chills all over my body right now watching that scene from the movie "Miracle." You know you do, too, because it's based on the true David and Goliath story of the U.S. men's hockey team beating the Soviet Union back in 1980 Winter Olympics. And then they went on from there, of course, in the final round to win the gold.

But I want to give you the backdrop to that game. The Cold War was at its height. America and the Soviet Union were two of the most formidable enemies in the world, and facing a series of international crises. A lot of Americans -- I shouldn't say Americans, a lot of people saw the U.S. as the failing superpower. So, when underdog American team beat the overwhelmingly favored Soviets, it became the miracle on ice.

Captain Michael Eruzione made the winning score for Team USA. You know what, to Americans 00 the final horn was the sign of good beating evil, democracy beating communism. I know, it sounds dramatic, right?

Mr. Michael Eruzione joining us live now from boston.

Good morning, my friend. Thank you for getting up early.

MICHAEL ERUZIONE, CAPTAIN, 1980 U.S. OLYMPIC HOCKEY TEAM: Thank you, Christi. Not a problem.

PAUL: All righty.

Let me ask you, I just noticed this morning, the "New York Post" had a headline that said Russia can never avenge Miracle on Ice. It's basically saying, look, I don't care how many Olympics there are, nothing will ever be the same as this one. Do you agree with that?

ERUZIONE: Yes, I do agree with it, and partly because it's a whole different world that we live in now. We play Russia, we don't play the Soviets. There's not that rivalry between the two countries from a political end. Professionals play now versus the amateurs that we were in 1980. So, I think the whole thing is very, very different from the players to just the scope of the game and what the game meant to a nation back in 1980 versus what it means today.

PAUL: So, here's the thing, we're about 20 minutes away from the puck dropping, again, between the U.S. and Russia in Sochi. You were in such a unique position as captain. If you had five minutes with today's team, what would you say to them? Before this game, right now?

ERUZIONE: Well, I don't think they really want to listen to what I had to say. But if I had anything to say, just enjoy the moment. This is their team. Our team is 34 years ago.

Create your own moment. Have your own opportunity. It's a big game today but this is the first of many big games. They're going to have a lot more challenges down the road. This is an important game to get your seeding in the right place as the tournament moves on.

So, I would just tell them to enjoy the moment, play hard, have fun, and whatever happens is going to happen.

PAUL: Let me read you something that Igor Kuperman said about Russia winning hockey in Sochi specifically. Of course, he was the G.M. for team Russia back in 2002. He says of Russia, quote, "They want to show everybody the country's great, thriving this has become like a former socialist/communist thing. All the stuff you're reading, Obama, Edward Snowden makes it seem like we're back in the '70s or '80s."

Are there political overtones, Mike, in this game today, and as a player, do you feel that?

ERUZIONE: You know, as a player, absolutely not. We're playing a hockey game.

You know, like I said many times. In 1980, you know, we had no idea the country was watching. We were very surprised by the reaction after the games were over.

And I think these players look at it the same way. They're not going to solve the world's problems. This is an opportunity for them to win a hockey game and move on in a tournament that's very important to them.

How the country looks at it might be different. But as players, I think you want to compete, you want to win. And you want to represent your country the right way and perform the best you can. But I don't think it's a political venue at all for the athletes.

PAUL: It's interesting because there have been so many columnists in the last couple weeks who have written about how hockey is all Russia cares about. One had said that if Russia had won no other medal at the Olympics, but they won gold in hockey, they would consider the Olympics a success. Somebody just wrote for Putin, the Olympics is a $50 billion hockey game. How much pressure, Mike, is on the team for Russia, for those players?

ERUZIONE: Oh, you know what, it's a ton of pressure. And actually too much pressure, I think. I know Tretiak (ph), who is the goalie in the 1980, said every game that the Russians play in the Olympics is a gold medal game.

And, boy, that's hard put on a player. It's hard enough to play the game in the Olympic environment, let alone having that pressure on you. It will be really interesting to see what kind of pressure the players feel.

And I don't care if they're professional players or not, when the whole country is making those kind of comments, it's going to be hard. They're an awfully good team. They're not a great team. They're not one of the favorites, but not the favorite.

PAUL: Of course, everyone likes to use the word "miracle" when they talk about your team back in the 1980s. Do you think "miracle" is the accurate word?

ERUZIONE: You know, it's kind of a nice catchy word. To me, I'm looked at miracles, you see the surgeries that doctors perform, and the first responders in 9/11, you know, people like that, they're miracle people. They go out and save lives.

We're a hockey team. It is nice to hear the word "miracle", but to me it was a victory, it was a great upset a great moment. I use miracle in a different phrase than a hockey game.

PAUL: Well, Mike, I'm so glad you got up early for us and game in to talk to us. I know you're watching today, but it's always good -- it's always good to get your perspective. Go enjoy the game today.

ERUZIONE: I will, Christi. Thank you very much. And, you know, like I said, it's a big game but there are going to be a lot bigger ones to come.

PAUL: Good to know. Good to see you, my friend. Thank you. Mike Eruzione --

ERUZIONE: Take care. You too.

PAUL: You too, thank you.

So, in less than two hours, jurors in the loud music murder trial are set to resume deliberations. Yes, they're still going at it, people. Did a question that they asked the judge last night signal that they hit a wall? We have a live report for you on this coming up from Jacksonville, next.


PAUL: So, have you heard that the jury in the loud music trial asked a question that some are calling a bombshell.

BLACKWELL: Jurors are back at the courthouse in about two hours, about an hour and a half in the fourth day of deliberations. What's at stake for Michael Dunn is life in prison if he's convicted of murdering 17-year-old Jordan Davis in 2012 in the a Florida gas station.

Alina Machado is outside the courthouse in Jacksonville.

Alina, talk to us about this question that came about 5:00 Friday.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was interesting because we hadn't heard anything from the jury room. They had not asked for any evidence, they hadn't asked for any more questions. Then we had a request for a 30-minute break and this question.

I want you to listen from the judge as he read it out in court. Take a listen.


JUDGE RUSSELL HEALEY, DUVAL COUNTY, FLORIDA: The second question is this, is it possible to not reach a verdict on one count and reach a verdict on other counts? The answer to that is yes.


MACHADO: Now, that, of course, indicates that the jury might be struggling with at least one of the charges. And they could possibly return a partial verdict in this case.

Now, they had this case, they've been deliberating since Wednesday afternoon. As you mentioned, they've had two full days of deliberations because Wednesday was only a partial day. And during that time, they've asked for several pieces of evidence. They asked to see the surveillance video from inside the Jacksonville convenience store where you can't see the shooting but you can hear it.

They also asked for Bendie the mannequin, as they called it the dummy with the sticks. That was an exhibit that both the defense and the prosecution used to show the path the bullets took through Jordan Davis' body, all things that indicate, Christi and Victor, that this jury is taking their job very seriously.

BLACKWELL: And they'll be back in the courtroom at 9:00. We'll see if that verdict comes down sometime during NEW DAY this morning.

Alina Machado in Jacksonville, Florida. We'll check back. Thank you.

PAUL: So, coming up, a new report is slamming the Miami Dolphins why the NFL says Richie Incognito is not the only bully on that team.

BLACKWELL: Plus, a former NFL star is back in the spotlight. But this time, not to NFL. The serious charges leveled against Darren Sharper. That's just ahead.


PAUL: You know what? Mortgage rates went up this week, here you go. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Good morning. It is 28 minutes past the hour right now. Welcome back. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to have you with us.

Here are five things you need to know for your new day. Volkswagen employees who built the Passat have spoken, they do not want a union at their Chattanooga, Tennessee plant. Now, the employees there rejected an invitation to join the UAW, the United Auto Workers. Three days of secret balloting ended with almost 90 percent voting against the proposal that ended last night.

The state Republicans feared a union shop would drive business out of the state.

PAUL: Number two, South Carolina -- yes, people -- South Carolina got shaken last night by a 4.1 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was near the town of Edgefield. No injuries or significant damage thankfully has been reported so far.

BLACKWELL: Number three, the second round of peace talks to try to end the Syrian civil war has gone nowhere. Syria's foreign minister expressed this, quote, "deepest apologies for the lack of progress."

The two sides have been meeting in one room with a U.N. intermediary. And talks started last month. Next month will mark the third year of the war which has killed more than 100,000 Syrians.

PAUL: Number four, President Obama is going to ask Congress to loan $1 billion in aid to Jordan. The president pledged a loan guarantee to Jordan's King's Abdullah II yesterday during a bilateral meeting.

Now, Jordan is a key U.S. ally that's financially burdened with a cost of hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees right now. The aid package would last for five years.

BLACKWELL: Number five now, if you're at the airport today, we feel for you.

PAUL: Uh-huh.

BLACKWELL: Already, 500 flights canceled.

PAUL: Ouch.

BLACKWELL: Hopefully, yours is not one of them. But there could be more on the way because of the snow in the Northeast. Airlines are struggling to get everyone on their destination on this busy holiday weekend, if you count Valentine's Day as a holiday.

PAUL: A holiday? What did I miss?

BLACKWELL: Most single people don't. On the ground, 165,000 homes still without power. A big improvement over the 400,000 out of power yesterday.

PAUL: I'm married, what does that mean for me?


PAUL: Well, not holiday, I guess. I don't know.

So, let's talk about the Miami Dolphins, because they're in the spotlight again and it is not one they want to be in. More allegations of harassment here. I want to tell you about this new report.

According to it, player Richie Incognito is not the only bully on the team. Yesterday, the NFL released more than 140 pages from its investigation.

BLACKWELL: The findings, multiple players used racial slurs, homophobic names and inappropriate touching -- let's bring in CNN's Joe Carter and Nick Valencia.

Joe, first to you, what else have we learning from the report?

JOE CARTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, it's a 148-page report that you said. It covered, of course, a couple of months. Ted Wells was hired by the NFL to investigate the situation that was going on within the Miami Dolphins locker room.

And really reading through the report yesterday the findings are quite disgusting. The takeaway, their workplace environment is much different than our workplace environment.

I've been in many NFL locker rooms, it's vulgar, it's racists. At times, it's homophobic. They slow around slurs like game towels. It's very commonplace.

But here in this report, the findings are that they crossed the line. It wasn't just one player, it was three players and it wasn't just one victim, it was three -- two players and an assistant trainer.

And they did it to the point where Jonathan Martin, sort of the face of this, felt that he not only had to leave the team, but he felt his life wasn't worth living not once but twice. He considered killing himself not once but two different times. So, it got that bad.

Coaches didn't know it apparently. The offensive line coach apparently did have some sort of idea what was going on. The head coach, the assistant coaches and general managers in the organization weren't aware of what was going on because he never felt -- I mean, Jonathan Martin never felt like he should report it.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Joe, when you look at the report, part of the interesting point is the mental health issues in the report. Jonathan Martin saying he had mental health issues going back to high school and he had a bipolar friendship with Richie Incognito. Sometimes, they were on very good terms. Other times, they were on not-so-good terms. And like Joe was saying, Victor and Christie, it seems as though from this report, you know, the culture a locker room it's what you'd expect the culture of the locker room to be in the NFL. This is a brutal sport. These are gladiators so to speak.

It just went to the next level.

BLACKWELL: Beyond the typical racism and homophobia, do you see in the locker room --

VALENCIA: They would berate his sister. I mean, things like that. They were saying he wasn't black enough. There are offensive linemen, you know, the coach, implicit in this bullying, he knew what was going on and culture and let it happen.

PAUL: We'll have to see what happens.

CARTER: It's the combination of a perfect storm. You're looking at somebody like Richie Incognito who they're calling the ring leader but there are two offensive linemen named as well, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey. They sort of follow Richie Incognito's lead.

But here you have the ultra alpha male. He's had trouble in college, he had two different universities and in the NFL. You've got that alpha male who everybody has said say sensitive person. So, you have the combination of a perfect storm of two people going against each other, where at sometimes, Jonathan Martin felt like he had to join in that vulgar joking and he felt like he had to be accepted and it would lessen the harassment that he was receiving.

PAUL: Well, listen, we want to move on to this other big story in NFL. Former NFL star Darren Sharper yesterday charged in the alleged drugging and raping of two women. And he's also being eyed for crimes three other states.

Joe, what else do you know about this one?

CARTER: Well, according to court papers as you said, charged with two rapes in California. Under investigation for sexual assaults in Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana. In California, according to the court papers in October 2012, he met a couple of women in a nightclub. All three of them went back to his hotel room.

The women allege they were given a shot of something. They passed out, one woman she woke up and believed she was raped. The other woman said she interrupted Darren Sharper's actions. We don't know exactly what those actions are, but she interrupted his actions.

Now, there are two other women who met him in the same club in January of this year. Same exact pattern happened. They went back to his hotel room. They received a shot of something. They passed out. One believed that she was raped.

VALENCIA: Yes, because of that, these other cases that prosecutors found in other states that they're trying to get his bail increased to $10 million. Like Joe was saying, it's this pattern, meeting two women, takes him back to the hotel room, gives them something to drink and that's when the alleged sexual assaults occur.

So, this is a serious thing for this NFL star.

CARTER: Yes. If he's convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison. I mean, they are seeking -- prosecutor is seeking several charges, including two counts of rape by the use of drug. And again, if convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.

BLACKWELL: Well, certainly not the last we're going to hear about it. Those two stories.

But I want you to stick around for one more we have, a bit lighter here -- 63rd annual NBA all-star game in New Orleans. The jazz for the conference matchup, NBA legend and TNT Sports analyst Charles Barkley landed in an exclusive interview with President Obama.

PAUL: It turned into a bit of a lovefest.

BLACKWELL: A little bit.


CHARLES BARKLEY, TNT SPORTS: Watching LeBron James play at the peak of his superpowers, it's an amazing debate. I never thought I would say somebody like -- this guy might be as good as Michael Jordan.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know LeBron, I know LeBron. When you're standing next to him and then you watch him close up, I've never seen somebody that size, that fast who can jump that high, who's that strong, who has that much basketball savvy, all in one package. So we don't yet know where he's going to be.

Now, I'm a Chicago guy, and Mike will always be the guy for me. Just because, you know, that was a magical moment for the city. And, you know, he was a champion.

But, you know, Mike's now retired. LeBron, when you look at him, you think he might be able to play at a high level for another seven, eight, 10 years. He's 29 years old.

In terms of every aspect of the game, LeBron has a chance to be, you know, as good as anybody.


BLACKWELL: That's probably the most relaxed I've seen the president in quite some time.

PAUL: Well, Charles Barkley -- you know, they're talking sports.

BLACKWELL: That's right.

PAUL: Nothing against Charles, he's talking sports. And that's the big love.

VALENCIA: Who wouldn't be comfortable around Charles Barkley? (CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: You can watch more of the exclusive interview during pregame coverage of the NBA all-star game that starts tomorrow night 7:00 Eastern on TNT.

Joe, Nick, thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, guys, so much.

BLACKWELL: Still to come on NEW DAY, actress Ellen Page holds back tears during a speech at the Human Rights Campaign. Up next, why she got emotional, and what she said that triggered a standing ovation from that crowd.

PAUL: Plus, a step towards marriage and equality in Virginia. But same-sex couples who want to wed may want to wait a little bit before setting that date. We're going to explain the legal challenges straight ahead.


BLACKWELL: Welcome back.

Actress Ellen Page making a personal revelation that she's gay.

PAUL: The star of the hit movie "Juno" broke the news during an emotional speech. This was in Las Vegas for the Human Rights Campaign. Listen to everyone cheering her on. This reaction actually triggered a standing ovation from the crowd.


ELLEN PAGE, ACTRESS: And I am here today because I am gay and because --


PAGE: And because maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility.


BLACKWELL: Well, the 26-year-old actress said that she's speaking out now because she's tired of lying by omission.

PAUL: Yes, I know, it's -- it's -- I encourage you to go online and watch the whole thing because the whole speech is so compassionate.


PAUL: And it really gives a sense to people who wonder why they come out -- why they do come out. Because authenticity, it's hard to stay there and get there especially in that world and Hollywood, I'm sure. So, you can find the whole thing. BLACKWELL: So many people ask why come out, why make an announcement, why do a magazine cover? Because there are people in places maybe not as liberal as Hollywood or New York City who don't see people who are out and happy with who they are. And to know it is OK to be exactly who you are and where you are.

PAUL: Yes. It's an important message. And she really does put it in terms that I think will give you a new way to look at it, a new perspective. So, we encourage you,

In fact, the legal victory as we continue on kind of this topic for same-sex couples in Virginia here. A federal judge has struck down a law that bans gay marriage.

BLACKWELL: Now, Virginia is just the latest state shifting its marriage laws. New Mexico, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Jersey are all challenging laws between same-sex couples.

Joe Johns has the latest on that Virginia ruling.

Good morning, Joe.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Victor and Christi, the Virginia ruling is only the latest challenge to state law restrictions on same-sex marriage. These cases are now in the federal appeals pipeline. And the question which one, if any, will end up at the nation's highest court?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the sight of God --

JOHNS (voice-over): The challenge to Virginia's same-sex marriage ban were brought by two men denied a marriage license.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are no different than anybody else out here. We just want the opportunity to be recognized the same way everyone else is. And to have the same benefits that married couples have now.

JOHNS: And two Virginia women whose marriage was formalized in California, but is not being recognized in the commonwealth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As parents, we want the best for our daughter. And we know that it would mean a lot to her if our family was treated just like every other family. We want that for all Virginians, no matter who they are and who they love.

JOHNS: The ruling by federal judge, Arenda Wright Allen, an appointee of President Obama, confronts a question unanswered by the Supreme Court, whether the Constitution guarantees equal protection for same sex marriage.

Allen writes, "The Declaration of Independence declares that all men were created equal. Surely, this means all of us."

In Kentucky, this week, a federal judge ruled the state must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states, but did not address Kentucky's own same sex marriage ban.

Seventeen states recognize same-sex marriage. Six other states that restrict it are in flux, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia, in flux because of recent federal court rulings, or politicians who have refused to enforce the restrictions. The newly sworn in governor and attorney general of Virginia both Democrats are among them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marriage is a fundamental right protected by the United States Constitution.

JOHNS (on camera): It's an issue most likely to be decided right here at the United States Supreme Court. Virginia is in focus because the case for marriage equality there was argued by two American super lawyers, Ted Olson and David Boies.

(voice-over): They recently challenged and won a California same sex marriage case before the Supreme Court. Their opponents say the courts are overstepping their bounds.

BRIAN BROWN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE: There is not a due process or equal protection right to redefine the very nature of what marriage is. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

JOHNS: Opponents of same-sex marriage are fighting back, even pushing laws to protect those who object to making wedding cakes for gay couples. State lawmakers in Kansas have drafted a bill that would protect people who refuse goods and services to same-sex couples.

(on camera): But as far as the legal issues that have a chance of being heard by the Supreme Court anytime soon, this week's Virginia case stands out, if only because of history. It was an appeal of a Virginia case in the 1960s that led the court to declare interracial marriage the law of the land -- Victor and Christi.


BLACKWELL: All right. Joe Johns for us in Washington. We'll expand this conversation throughout the morning with two of our political commentators.

Still to come on NEW DAY -- a mega merger could usher in a new era in cable TV.

PAUL: Yes. I mean, this is a multibillion deal. Here's the question, are you the consumer the one who is going to get short-changed? We'll talk about that in a moment.


PAUL: Good morning, New Orleans.

See that live look there, on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Peter's Street. Not much going on because I think people were there a couple of hours ago and they thought it is time to get to bed. BLACKWELL: They just went to sleep at 5:00.

PAUL: Exactly. Nice day for you there today. Sunny and high of 57 degrees. Sounds lovely.

So, what happens when the biggest cable company in the U.S. buys the second biggest cable company in the U.S.?

BLACKWELL: Yes. Well, it happened this week. Comcast announced it agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion. If it is approved by the federal government, it would be a massive cable giant serving one out of every three homes.

PAUL: So, I know you are sitting at home thinking, what does this mean for me, the customer, and are there any political implications?

Earlier, I spoke with Frida Ghitis. She's world affairs correspondent with "The Miami Herald". She is really us understand this. She had fascinating points. Listen to this.


FRIDA GHITIS, WORLD AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, MIAMI HERALD: It is really hard to argue this is good for consumers. I think consumers have seen the trends in the United States. Prices are getting higher. Choices are diminishing. And there's no way to argue having fewer companies with the biggest and second biggest cable companies joining is going to make that any better.

PAUL: Well, you wrote a great op-ed for And you said that Americans should resent politicians who made this system possible. Why is it their fault?

GHITIS: You know, in the United States, people hate their cable company. That is a common sentiment. They hate their cable company. They hate their Internet company. They hate their phone company. Very often, the three are the same.

The companies have earned that sentiment. Customer service is notoriously terrible.

But we need to look a bit beyond what the companies are doing and why this is happening. We have a political system that has permitted this state of affairs not just to develop to the place it is right now, but continue moving in the wrong direction of fewer choices and very bad service, very bad quality service and prices that are really absurd when you compare them to the rest of the world.

PAUL: So, what is the solution? Can government do something about it or are we edging in on the capitalistic premise that we're supposed founded on?

GHITIS: You know, we have made certain adjustments on the capitalistic system for the benefit of the country. The United States decided a long time that it wanted everybody to have telephones. The United States decided it wanted roads everywhere. There have been decisions that have been made to nudge the free-market system in the certain direction.

The United States desperately needs to have a high-speed fiber optic Internet network. The United States is falling behind the rest of the industrialized world. It has right now a study by the World Economic Forum of competiveness ranked the United States number 35 in the world in broadband bandwidth for capital. That is not just -- that is not just an embarrassing ranking, it is dangerous for the country, it is dangerous future.

PAUL: Why is that? Why aren't we further along in that capacity?

GHITIS: Because there has been a reluctance to get involved because these companies are making a lot of money from preserving the system the way it is. Politicians that get lobbied or received campaign contributions, they don't want to take on these massive companies.

The United States desperately needs a policy of improving its Internet network, of improving the infrastructure of the Internet in the country.

PAUL: OK. So, let me ask you this, that sounds a very expensive proposal. Who does that come from? Does it come from the companies, does it come from the government, does it come from the collaboration of both?

GHITIS: There are a lot of different options. A lot of different methods have been tried in other countries. It has worked very well. It has actually -- it is expensive, but it's actually -- it can be very profitable.

There are some cities that have taken on the challenge and what they can do is develop the fiber Internet, the fiber network and then sell to consumers and then allow the Internet providers, the telecommunications companies to market it and take a profit from doing the marketing and cities are actually making a profit for their taxpayers by doing this and at the same time, bringing the quality of service much, much higher.


PAUL: OK. Frida went on to say this is not an issue for the mid-term elect elections, but she thinks it should be.

So, just really a different perspective on this. Thank you to her.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And, you know, you're going to continue to see those surveys where people unfortunately are unhappy with the cable companies.

We'll see and we'll be right back.


BLACKWELL: Two words for you in the "Must See Moment." Surfing. Pig. Boom. PAUL: Glad you got to see it. Yes, his name is Comma. He goes everywhere with his owner, even on the surf board. His owner tries to keep him slim apparently. So, he has Comma on a vegetarian diet. Are you kidding me?


PAUL: A pig that cannot eat meat or pork. They are best buds. They sleep in the same bed together. I think that pretty much says it all.

BLACKWELL: Going over the line.

PAUL: I'm not going to judge somebody who loves their pet. I love my dogs. I'm not judging.

BLACKWELL: Let's stay with surfing for a moment. Wind surfers waited for the worst weather to hit the water. Look at this. Surfers off the coast of England are hitting the waves more than 30 feet sending them twice that far into the air.

PAUL: They were competing in the Red Bull storm chase final. That is what you are looking at here. It can only be held in storm-force conditions with winds up to 80 miles an hour. That is talent.

BLACKWELL: And not a pig in the bunch. Not a single pig.

PAUL: Just wait. A surfing pig. Does that outdo the skiing squirrel?

BLACKWELL: I like the groundhog, the suspenseful groundhog. My favorite story. The shortlist of favorite animal story, by the way.

PAUL: We want to give you a smile this morning as we head back into the next hour. Thank you for sharing your time with us.

BLACKWELL: Next hour of your NEW DAY continues now.