TODAY   |  June 27, 2013

How pop culture paved the way for gay rights

From Ellen Degeneres coming out on television, to TV shows like “Will and Grace,” pop culture expert Ramin Setoodeh, Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, and SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein discuss how pop culture has moved the country to where it is today.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> wednesday's historic ruling on same sex marriages is being celebrated across the country but it was 16 years ago when ellen degeneres marked a milestone breaking a huge barrier in front of millions of people on primetime tv.

>> i mean what is wrong? why do i have to be so ashamed? can't i just say the truth i mean be who i am? i'm 35 years old and still afraid to tell people. i mean i just -- susan, i'm gay.

>> so how much influence has pop culture had on america's changing attitude and the supreme court decision? joining us is our panel of guests. good morning to you all. thanks for being here.

>> welcome, guys.

>> good morning.

>> big day .

>> how big a deal is this law really, tom?

>> well, a significant law and even more significant decision. this is a federal statute that said if you have a same sex marriage from the dozen or so states that recognize them, we as the federal government don't care. we won't recognize that marriage for social security benefits or estate tax or anything else. but the decision invalidating it not only gets rid of that law but sends maybe a moral message that these unions deserve equal treatment. i think that is going to make a big difference throughout the country.

>> what about the 70% of americans from florida to alaska, some 37 states where the court didn't really rule about same sex marriage there?

>> right. yesterday's decisions don't say there is a right to same sex marriage, they don't require the states to change. instead, it says we're going to respect it if you do have that same sex union and, also, it suggests i think to a lot of the country that is undecided the momentum in that direction is a good thing and should be recognized.

>> it gives same sex couples who are married the same spousal rights so they are entitled to insurance and other things that heterosexual couples are entitled to as well. so economically, what's the impact?

>> well that's true when it comes to federal law . it used to be before the statute was struck down yesterday if you were a same sex couple you wouldn't get, for example, the social security survivor benefits. when it comes to government benefits. that's different now. the economic impact? well, it matters to big companies that supported striking the law down because they thought it was incredibly confusing to have couples that wouldn't have rights for state law for example but might for federal law or the reverse. now there's going to be a lot more uniformity. it's a lot simpler.

>> a lot of breaking down of what the two court rulings meant yesterday in legal terms but what about just for general conversation in america about same sex?

>> i think when you look back at the clip with ellen it seems like it was so long ago but it wasn't. 1997 . i remember i was in high school when ellen came out of the closet and it was such a big deal because we didn't have too many gay characters on tv. now when we look on the characters on "glee", at athletes, at what's happening in music, lady gaga , with the song from mclemore, same love. everyone is really talking about the fact that it's not, you know, there are people that are different and there are gay people and we know what they look like and you see it on reality tv . i think we've come a really far way.

>> even the president has changed his tune on this. ellen tweeted out yesterday, it is a supremely wonderful day for equality. prop 8 is over and so is doma. congratulations, everyone, and i mean everyone. so her influence has been huge on changing perception.

>> surely.

>> greg, i know you are about to be married soon.

>> yes.

>> you announced you're engaged.

>> congratulations.

>> last week.

>> what does this mean for a couple? what was it like for you personally yesterday?

>> it was amazing. i was getting on a flight here to come to new york and then all of a sudden the news hit and then my phone started going crazy and it was like, you have to power down. you have to power down. i was trying o get to everybody and all the congratulations and everything. i'm going to be able to marry the love of my life , jonny shio and, you know, now i can go forward and be recognized as a married couple.

>> fantastic.

>> and when you talk about pop culture , i mean, pop culture always seems to be ahead of the courts in these instances, right?

>> a lot of people even if you look at the "new york times" article they explicitly said one of the reasons why this ruling seemed like it was natural was because public opinion had changed and the reason public opinion has changed is because the stories we see on tv and in the movies and the music we listen to reflects that change.

>> give us the impact of this ruling yesterday, five, ten years down the road?

>> i think it really continues to build the momentum toward the states that are recognizing same sex marriage. i wouldn't look to see the courts mandate that to say you have a constitutional right to it but i'd say that group of 12 or 13 states becomes 25 or 30.

>> there we go. congratulations. great day. thank you for your discussion. fellows, we appreciate it.