A smiling Terry Moran made little effort to contain his excitement on Wednesday, hyping the Supreme Court's pro-gay marriage decisions as "poetic" and a "declaration" for "equal dignity." During live coverage, Moran and other journalists kept cutting to California, touting the cheering and celebrations there.
Minutes after the Court struck down key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, Moran thrilled, "And there is ringing language in here affirming the equal dignity and the equal rights of gay Americans under federal law." The grinning journalist said of Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion, "He wrote one case in language that is almost poetic in its embrace and affirmation of equal status." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Moran insisted that the decision "is a declaration of equal rights for gay Americans under the federal law. It is big."
There was never any doubt where the reporter stood on the issue. On March 28, 2013, Moran described the plaintiff in the Defense of Marriage Act as "a kind of folk hero to countless young Americans."
On March 26, 2013, the journalist framed the issue in emotional terms: "Outside the Supreme Court overnight a candlelight vigil for proponents of same-sex marriage. It's a debate that touches countless American families."
A partial transcript of the June 26 segment is below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The Supreme Court has handed down a decision on gay marriage on the Defense of Marriage Act. I want to go right to ABC's Terry Moran at the court. Terry.
TERRY MORAN: All right. George, I'm waiting for the actual opinion itself, but our excellent colleagues inside have told us that that Defense of Marriage Act, which for federal law defined marriage as the union of one man, one woman only, denied all federal benefits to gay couples, that has been ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the court. And what's important here, George, is that Kennedy is holding that is a denial of the equal protection of the laws to gay Americans: Not just that Congress shouldn't tell the states what to do. That would have been the more modest way to rule here. But this is-- this is essentially this decision, which I have just gotten, is a declaration of equal rights for gay Americans under the federal law. It is big.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have had a chance to look through the opinion?
MORAN: I have indeed. And there is ringing language in here affirming the equal dignity and the equal rights of gay Americans under federal law. And this is from justice Anthony Kennedy. He notes this case is a case of a widow, Edie Windsor, who married her long-time partner, Thea Spire, in the early part of this century. Their marriage was recognized by the state of New York. When her partner died, when Thea died, the IRS said, we don't recognize your marriage, because the Defense of Marriage Act won't let us. Pay us $363,000 in estate taxes, taxes no straight widow would have had to pay. Taxes no straight widow would have to pay. I will read you briefly from the opinion of justice Kennedy, who says "New York acted to give their lawful conduct a lawful status. The status is a far reaching legal acknowledgment of the intimate relationship between two people. A relationship deemed by the state worthy of dignity in the community equal with all other marriages. It reflects the community's perspective on the roots of the institution of marriage and the evolving understanding of the meaning of equality." And then he says that the federal government cannot say that gay people are not lawfully married if New York says so. He says, "The federal statute here is invalid for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect otherwise to disparage and injure those whom the state has deemed to protect." That was a little complicated. But basically, what justice Kennedy has said, that Congress can't say you aren't married, if New York has.
MORAN: [On Justice Kennedy] Well, look, he clearly wanted to decide both cases. He wrote one case in language that is almost poetic in its embrace and affirmation of equal status, as far as Congress is concerned, of legally married gay couples. If he took up Prop 8, which denied the right of-- denied gay couples the ability to marry in California, he'd have to go a long way not to embrace the words he'd just written. So, one can assume that he would have struck it down.