VELEZ MITCHELL: Day five of outrage in California over the gay marriage ban. You just heard movie star Drew Barrymore joining thousands of angry protesters desperate to overturn Prop 8. Even Governor Schwarzenegger said he hoped the state supreme court would overturn the ban.
Reverend Susan Russell of the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena has been protesting right along with the gay rights supporters.
Reverend Russell, exit polls showed three-quarters of weekly churchgoers voted to ban gay marriage. Now, you are a person of the cloth, and you were fighting to give gays the freedom to marry. Why?
REV. SUSAN RUSSELL, ALL SAINTS EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Absolutely. In a nutshell, I think it`s because, as a person of faith and a patriotic American, I believe in both the freedom of religion and the freedom from religion. And while I`ll defend to my last breath the rights of those who think that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, they don`t have the right to write their theology into our constitution. And because people of faith have been so much on the side of promoting bigotry and exclusion regarding gay and lesbian people, I think it`s critical that people of faith, with another perspective, stand up and speak out now, and that`s what we`re doing.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Why does the Mormon Church and its members care what gays do in terms of marriage or in the bedroom?
RUSSELL: You know, I`d encourage you to get a Mormon on and ask them, because it boggles my mind. We married 43 couples at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena between June 17 and November 4. And I guarantee you, there`s not a single one of those holy, wonderful marriages who`s a threat to any heterosexual marriage.
VELEZ MITCHELL: How would you describe those marriages? Because I understand you performed about a dozen yourself. [note: actually it was seven] So what would you tell those who want to ban it about those marriages?
RUSSELL: You know, I would say at this point, with my four clergy colleagues who`ve had the privilege of doing these weddings, we were invited into holy moments with couples. Some have been together as long as 30 and 40 years, against tremendous odds. And finally, get the opportunity to hear those words, "in the name of the Holy Spirit and by virtue of the power invested in me in the state of California ..." It`s just wrong to take those rights away from people who love each other and want to live together until death do them part.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Speaking of California, Governor Schwarzenegger says now he hopes that the state supreme court overturns Prop 8, but he actually rejected same-sex marriage legislation, so he`s kind of had a change of heart. Do you congratulate him or do you say, "Hey, you`re part of the whole problem, because if you hadn`t rejected the legislation, we wouldn`t be here"?
RUSSELL: It is a both/and. Absolutely. I think it`s never too late for the Holy Spirit to change people`s hearts and minds, and we`re thrilled to have Arnold on board. [note: and yes, I should have been more respectful and referred to him as "the Governor." mea culpa] And I think that we need to come together as fair-minded Californians, across faith and denomination and political, and all kinds of other lines, and say that writing discrimination into the constitution is just plain wrong. We need to fix it and we need to move on.
The segment you just showed about the economic challenges we`re facing -- if we want to support family values, we need to support families who don`t have money for health care or food for their children. We cannot afford any more to be distracted...
VELEZ MITCHELL: Oh, yes.
RUSSELL: ... by trying to take rights away from a few gay and lesbian couples who want to live together, happily ever after.
VELEZ MITCHELL: I could talk to you all night but, unfortunately, we`re out of time. It could have a huge economic impact on California, as well.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Thank you so much. Please come back and join us..