updated 5/11/2012 1:39:54 PM ET 2012-05-11T17:39:54

Guests: Howard Fineman, Nia-Malika Henderson, Angus King, Theodore Olson, Evan Wolfson,
Barney Frank, Tony Perkins

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Love means never having to say you`re sorry.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington. Leading off tonight,
the pursuit of happiness. The best known line in the Declaration of
Independence says we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable
rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Republican strategist Mark McKinnon points out that the pursuit of
happiness is exactly what President Obama was protecting yesterday when he
came out for gay marriage.

But for sure, those are fighting words. Not everyone agrees.
Tonight, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council will tell Barney Frank
why he thinks President Obama got it all wrong. Perkins and Frank -- let`s
hear from both.

Also, is gay marriage ultimately going to the Supreme Court? George
Bush`s solicitor general Ted Olson thinks so. He`s taking it there, and
he`s here, too, tonight.

Plus, a story that`s getting a lot of attention. It`s about bullying,
including one cruel episode that Mitt Romney took part in when he was at
boarding school. Yesterday, he had someone deny the story. Today Romney
said he apologized but said he didn`t remember.

And a man who`s likely to become -- who`s likely to become Maine`s new
senator may become the most important person in the Senate. Why? Because
he`s an independent and the which side he chooses could determine control
of that body. We`ll ask Angus King which way he plans to go.

And "Let Me Finish" tonight with Obama, the history maker.

We begin with the president`s same-sex marriage. U.S. Congressman
Barney Frank`s a Democrat from Massachusetts and Tony Perkins is president
of the Family Research Council.

Tony, thank you for coming on, as always. You`ve been on many times
before. Let me read something about this -- or something you said
recently. You were asked about this, about this -- what would you say if
one of your kids said that he was gay? And you said, "I doubt that would
happen with my children as we are teaching them the right ways that they
are to interact as human beings."

Well, what do you mean by that? If your kid`s gay, he`s gay, right?
What would you have to do with whether he`s gay or not?

social science research, there is not conclusive evidence that this is
genetic or biological. It is a complex mix of environmental factors.

And when you can control many of those environmental factors, you can
teach your kids certain ways, you can protect them from certain experiences
and certain things that could happen to them that could lead them down a
certain path.

MATTHEWS: So parents decide by the way they raise kids...

PERKINS: It is a major fact. What the evidence suggests is it`s
environment that drives a lot of this. Not a choice. I didn`t say choice,
I said environment.

MATTHEWS: That clashes with a lot of thinking. Congressman Frank,
what do you make of that statement by Mr. Perkins?

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, let me -- let me come to
Dick Cheney`s defense here, Chris. According to Mr. Perkins, it`s Dick and
Lynn Cheney`s fault that their daughter is a lesbian.

First of all, I don`t think there`s anything the matter with it. But
secondly, the notion that Dick and Lynn Cheney parented in an inferior way
to Mr. Perkins is just one more absurdity. No, I don`t think the Cheneys`
failure in some way to teach their daughter how to interact properly meant
her being a lesbian. I know of no such evidence that says that parents
have an effect one way or another.

I don`t know anybody for whom their sexual orientation wasn`t
involuntary, whether people are straight or gay. But you know, there are a
lot of very conservative people who`ve had gay and lesbian children. And
for Mr. Perkins to be blaming the parents, the Cheneys, for example, for
having a lesbian daughter is just one more absurdity.

PERKINS: Chris, I wish we had instant replay. I never blamed anyone
or accused anyone.

MATTHEWS: But you said that it was the way you parent determines the
orientation of the child.


PERKINS: ... environmental factors, and as a parent...

FRANK: No, that`s not what you said.

PERKINS: ... I can control a lot of those environmental factors.
Now, Barney`s the one who said it was a problem. I never accused...

MATTHEWS: No, no! Let`s go back...


FRANK: Excuse me, Chris. I want -- he`s just backing off what he
said. He said he taught his children how to interact properly. He`s the
one who said it was improper. He backs away from what he says. He`s on TV
now, he wants to look a little more civil.



MATTHEWS: OK, luckily...

FRANK: He clearly said "properly interact."

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s -- luckily, we have tape here, like in a sports
show, and we`re going to go back now and show what you said. The question
was, What would you do if one of your children came to you and said they
were gay? Here`s what you said. It`s on tape. Let`s watch and listen.


PERKINS: I doubt that would happen with my children as we are
teaching them the right ways that they are to interact as human beings.


MATTHEWS: So even though there is a number of people who have become
gay or gay -- believe they`re gay from a very early age, you believe it
wouldn`t happen with you because of what you what? What do you do to make

PERKINS: Well, one of the things that...

MATTHEWS: ... that you would doubt that your kid would be gay? That
is an enormous power you have that I didn`t know people had.

PERKINS: Parents have tremendous power in the direction that their
children go, in teaching them right from wrong, teaching them what is
appropriate and what`s not appropriate. I teach my children from the
scripture. I teach them biblical standards of morality, and that`s how we
raise our children. And...

FRANK: Can I respond, Chris...


MATTHEWS: Yes, you can, because are you saying that if you were
Barney`s father, he wouldn`t be gay?

PERKINS: No, I didn`t say that.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s...


MATTHEWS: ... you said you doubt he would be.

PERKINS: Barney`s a lot older than I am, so I couldn`t...

MATTHEWS: OK, well, that`s...


MATTHEWS: Go ahead, Congressman. Your thoughts.

FRANK: Yes. I apologize. I said he said it wasn`t proper. No, he
said it was wrong, that it wasn`t right. He backs away from what he says.
The quote said his children wouldn`t be gay because he would teach them the
right way to interact. Well, the opposite of that would be the wrong way.

He also said he would teach them right from wrong. So he clearly was
saying that being gay was the wrong way. And once again, apparently, the
Cheneys are not as smart or as biblical or as morally righteous as he is,
and I think that`s nonsense.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s listen to somebody else because this is going
to get to be -- I`m convinced this is going to get into the religious area
as this campaign goes on.

Now, here`s Franklin Graham and here`s what he has to say, the son of
Billy Graham. And by the way, the only reason we pay attention to this guy
is he`s the son of a great man. Franklin Graham had a very strong reaction
to President Obama`s embrace of same-sex marriage. He released this
statement, Congressman. I want you to listen to this, too.

"In changing his position from that of senator/candidate Obama,
President Obama has, in my view, shaken his fist at the same God who
created and defined marriage. It grieves me that our president would now
affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more. The
institution of marriage should not be defined by presidents or polls,
governors or the media. The definition was set long ago, and changing
legislation lags or policy will never change God`s definition. This is a
sad day for America. May God help us."

Do you agree with that, Tony Perkins?


MATTHEWS: No, I want to ask Tony first. He`s with a religious
organization here. Do you believe what he just said?

PERKINS: I believe that changing marriage and the definition of
marriage is problematic for society. Will God judge America on the
changing? I don`t know that.

I do know this, that when we tinker with public policy as it pertains
to marriage, there are outcomes from that. We look back 40 years to the
changing of -- of marriage as it pertains to divorce and the introduction
of no-fault divorce, we`ve ended up with more children without fathers.
That`s had consequences from an economic standpoint for our society.

So when we talk about the policy aspects of this, it affects children.
The reason we...

MATTHEWS: So changing the definition of marriage is a bad thing in


MATTHEWS: Well, why do you -- what do you think of the Mormon
religion changing its definition?

PERKINS: Well, what did it change to?

MATTHEWS: They changed it from polygamy to monogamy.

PERKINS: To become...


MATTHEWS: ... in itself was changing the rules bad in itself. You
just said it was a minute -- want to play the tape again? You just said
changing the rules of marriage is bad in itself.

PERKINS: Yes, they had to change the rules...

MATTHEWS: In itself...


PERKINS: They had to change the rules...

MATTHEWS: OK, I`m just trying to...

PERKINS: ... to become a state because --


MATTHEWS: Not everything is always simple. Go ahead, your thoughts,
Mr. Frank.

FRANK: Well, first of all, you are (ph) the right issue now. He says
God decided it. As I have read in the Bible, the New -- the Old Testament,
marriage was a contract between one man and at least one woman. Abraham,
the founder of the religions, took a second wife because his wife couldn`t
give him children. And when the first wife gave him children, he kicked
out the second wife and her child.

There was polygamy in the Bible. The notion of one man, one woman was
not only what God said. Secondly, Mr. Perkins said it`s had social
consequences. No, it has not. If people were concerned about divorce,
they ought to be doing (INAUDIBLE) divorce. Actually, that would be a
problem for the Republican Party, which has taken this anti-same-sex
marriage issue to taking (ph) any divorce issue because so many of their
leading figures have been divorced, in some cases a number of times.

But the point is this. We have had same-sex marriage since 2004 in a
number of states. Many millions of American have lived in societies for
years where there was same-sex marriage. None of the negative consequences
people like Mr. Perkins said have come true. There has been no higher
divorce rate among heterosexuals. Again, it is illogical.

The notion that because two women are in love, that`s going to somehow
undermine the marriage of a man and a woman in love makes no sense, and in


FRANK: ... has been no negative evidence. Let them point to anything
in any of the states that have had marriage. There hasn`t been any.

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s switch to the New Testament for a minute, more
familiar territory for you and for all of us, I think. Let`s go to this

FRANK: Not for me, Chris.

MATTHEWS: No, not for you, Barney. But you`re familiar with a lot of
things you don`t attest to.

Let me ask you this. I am struck, as a straight guy, with these
wonderful relationships that have come out, out of the closet, you could
argue, people that have been together for 20, 30, 40 years. Women --
women, they come out, they seem like the most familiar people in the world,
regular -- they come out and they`ve been love together and lived together,
shared everything together for 20 years, 30 years.

You can call that sin, if you want. Fine. That`s a statement you can
make, make a statement. But the question -- what do we do when they ask
society for recognition? All they want is the love of society and the
acceptance of their relationship after all these -- one woman in her 60s
said, All we want before we die is for society to recognize our love.

How could a Christian deny that and say that`s a religious belief?
I`m asking you.

PERKINS: Well, why has society...

MATTHEWS: Why is that wrong to -- why is that wrong for them to ask
for that? Is it wrong for them to ask for it?

PERKINS: Why has society recognized marriage? What has been the
purpose of marriage?

MATTHEWS: Well, there are many purposes.

PERKINS: And they are?

MATTHEWS: It`s social organization. It`s the way we humans have
tended over the years to organize it. One (ph) of the marriages now...

PERKINS: And for what purpose?

MATTHEWS: ... may be gay marriage, it may be different kinds of

PERKINS: And it`s been the place where children are created...

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s...


PERKINS: ... in the next generation. And what we`re talking about
here is we make policy based upon the rule, not the exception. You can
pick any anecdotal situation, one relationship, this relationship. That`s
not how we make policy. We make policy based on what`s for society as a
whole. The evidence is overwhelming...


PERKINS: Children do best with a mom and a dad.


PERKINS: ... economically, educationally and emotionally.

MATTHEWS: A marriage is not just spawning. It`s not just having
kids. It`s staying together. It`s forming a family. Forming a family`s
what we`re talking about here and honoring a family. If a family...

FRANK: Chris...

MATTHEWS: Go ahead. Your thoughts, Congressman. You`re on.

FRANK: Well, again, Mr. Perkins makes very little sense. Nothing
about letting me marry Jim is going to interfere with anybody else`s
ability and right to have children. First of all, of course, many
marriages don`t produce children. People...


FRANK: ... who are beyond the age to have children marry. People who
are infertile marry. So the notion that that`s the purpose -- it is to


FRANK: Yes, but it`s one thing to say it`s a rule, Mr. Perkins,
another to say it is the purpose. That is...

PERKINS: I said it`s the rule.


FRANK: I`m sorry, Mr. Perkins. Please don`t interrupt me. You`ve
said it`s the rule. You said before that -- you never like what you said.
I`m sorry. You say these things, then you back away.

You said that was the purpose of marriage. There are a number of
purposes, including promoting the love of two people to be together and to
have someone to be with when they -- when they get older, et cetera. But
the point is letting two men marry has no negative effect on children. And
by the way...

PERKINS: That`s not true.

FRANK: How does two men getting married affect the right of other
people to have children? If you`re concerned about people who are
unmarried having children, then what you want to do is to ban adoption by
anybody except a married couple, which would, of course, be terrible for
children because everybody --


MATTHEWS: OK, let me get to a news story. Congressman...


FRANK: Everybody who works with adoption...

PERKINS: That`s certainly not true.

FRANK: ... knows if you ban -- if you say adoption only happens with
married couples, a lot of children will never get adopted and they`ll be
worse off.

PERKINS: If we were just talking about marriage, that`d be one thing.
But we know that when you change the definition of marriage and change the
law -- the law is a tutor. It`s an instructor. What we end up finding out
is that the curriculum in our schools are changed...

FRANK: Oh, you`re taking the subject...


PERKINS: ... religious organizations are impacted...

MATTHEWS: OK, let me...


MATTHEWS: But first of all, I think you have to answer the question
of whether people who are infertile or too old to have children should be
allowed to get married because if your definition that the only reason to
get married is to have children...


MATTHEWS: Let`s go to this question. Today, this afternoon, just a
few minutes ago, Governor Romney -- I don`t know if you know this,
Congressman Frank -- has said he doesn`t have a problem with states
allowing gay couples to adopt children. Where are you on that? Are you
with Romney or not?

PERKINS: No, I`m not with Romney.

MATTHEWS: You think states shouldn`t be able to do that.

PERKINS: I believe that -- again -- that`s not what I believe, it`s
what the evidence shows. Kids do best with a mom and with a dad, and
public policy should encourage that which is best.

MATTHEWS: Well, as I said, this afternoon...

FRANK: Well, the point being...


MATTHEWS: What do you think of that, Congressman Frank? He said they
should be able to decide what rights to give same-sex couples, including

Let`s watch him say it. I want you to react to what Romney says, both
of you. This is news.


as a society take action which we believe strengthens the nation. I happen
to believe that the best setting for raising a child is where there`s the
opportunity for a mom and a dad to be in the home. I know there are many
circumstances where that`s not possible, through death or divorce. I also
know many gay couples are able to adopt children. That`s fine. But -- but
my preference is that we encourage the marriage of a man and a woman and
that we continue to define marriage as a relationship between...


MATTHEWS: ... couples, that`s fine. He just said it there...


MATTHEWS: ... kids -- how kids -- but then they can`t get married,
which is a strange thing. Go ahead, Congressman.

FRANK: Let me respond. What he says does not mean -- you can believe
everything he said and (INAUDIBLE) ban marriage. You can encourage
marriage. I don`t know how you do that, but you don`t ban it.

Here`s the deal. Even if you believe that it`s best for a child to be
adopted by a married couple, everybody who deals with adoption understands
there aren`t enough married couples, particularly those that have had
children already, to adopt the children who need adoption.

So the choice in most cases is not whether a child is adopted by a man
and a woman living as husband and wife, but whether the child is adopted at
all. A number of gay people, for example, are adopting children who were
born with AIDS because of the misdeeds of their parents. There was no
married couple ready to adopt them.

Mr. Perkins would have condemned those children to never having loving
parents because they weren`t the kind of parents he approved of.

PERKINS: No, Barney, that`s absolutely not true.

FRANK: That`s not the choice.

PERKINS: That`s absolutely not true.


FRANK: ... adopt everybody?

PERKINS: Look...

MATTHEWS: I need a news fact here. Are you with the governor on the
right of gay people -- he said he`s fine with them adopting. Are you?

PERKINS: Oh, you -- children need a mom and a dad. The fact is there
is not an excess of children waiting to be adopted. That`s why most people
are going out of the country to adopt children.

FRANK: Some (ph) children.

PERKINS: The only children where there is -- yes, it is, Barney. You
know that`s true.

FRANK: No, there were not children...


PERKINS: The only area where there is -- where there are children
waiting to be adopted are special needs children.

FRANK: Right.

PERKINS: Most parents are having to go out of the country to find
children to adopt.

FRANK: And (INAUDIBLE) Mr. Perkins, unlike you, I don`t discount
special needs children. I don`t discount children...

PERKINS: I don`t, either.

FRANK: Well, you just that there were...


FRANK: ... only special needs children and children with AIDS. And
gay couples, loving gay couples adopted children...


FRANK: ... who had these problems who couldn`t be adopted by other

PERKINS: If we -- if we made our adoption laws easier for couples to
adopt in this country...


PERKINS: ... we would see a lot more adoption here...


MATTHEWS: Well, what we have here is an interesting development, I
know. Congressman Frank, please come back again and again. Thank you.
And I think it`s interesting that Congressman Frank and Governor Romney
agree on the goodness of gay couples being able to adopt. And you are out
on that one. You don`t fit with them on that.

PERKINS: I`m for kids getting a mom and a dad...

MATTHEWS: But you don`t want...


MATTHEWS: You`re not -- you`re not -- to use the governor`s words,
you`re not "fine" gay couples adopting.

PERKINS: No, I`m not fine.

MATTHEWS: OK, so the -- interesting that you line up opposed to the
governor, and Barney Frank is with the governor on this one.

Coming up, is gay marriage headed to the Supreme Court? George Bush`s
solicitor general, Ted Olson, thinks it is, and he`s taking it there and
he`s coming here in a minute. This is hot, and this is HARDBALL, the place
for politics.


MATTHEWS: New poll numbers on what may be the two biggest
battlegrounds of the presidential race. Let`s check the HARDBALL

We start in Ohio, where a new Quinnipiac poll finds President Obama in
a tight race with Mitt Romney, couldn`t be tighter. It`s Obama 45, Romney
44. If Romney makes Ohio -- well, Senator Portman -- Rob -- Senator
Portman his running mate, it`s a tie. Interesting. It gives him a point,
Obama-Biden 45, Romney-Portman 45. It gives him a point. May be enough.

Now to Florida, where a new Suffolk poll has a similar story, Obama
46, Romney 45. Now take a look at how Romney jumps ahead in Florida if he
puts Marco Rubio of that state on the ticket. It`s now Romney/Rubio 47,
Obama/Biden 44. Wow. Gives him the state.

We`ll be right back.



The debate over gay marriage is being fought out at the state level,
but could this legal fight wind up in the Supreme Court, and what will the
president`s comments yesterday do to influence those arguments?

Ted Olson served as solicitor general under President George W. Bush
and now, with his one-time opponent David Boies of the Bush vs. Gore fight,
he`s fighting the California ban on gay marriage, Prop 8, also known as
Prop 8. And Evan Wolfson is also an attorney who founded and is president
of the group Freedom to Marry.

Now, what I want to find out here is the best way to get to marriage
equality, if you believe in that. Let me show you both what the president
said in that ABC interview about gay marriage today being a state issue.
That`s what the president said. Let`s watch him.


that this is an issue that is going to be worked out at the local level,
because historically this has not been a federal issue.

it`s not being worked out on the state level. We saw that Tuesday in North
Carolina, the 30th state to in essence ban gay marriage.

OBAMA: Well -- well, what I`m saying is, is that different states are
coming to different conclusions. I think it`s important to recognize that
folks who feel very strongly that marriage should be defined narrowly as
between a man and a woman, many of them are not coming at it from a mean-
spirited perspective. A bunch of them are friends of mine.


MATTHEWS: Well, thank you. We have Ted Olson here. We also have
Evan Wolfson.

It seems to me there`s three ways we could have marriage equality in
this country. The Supreme Court could rule it has to be, it`s a right,
equality is a right. We could have the states make up their minds
individually, or we could have -- and they could make up their minds either
by legislative action, as has happened in some states, five or six states,
or it could be done by the voters, which they don`t seem to want to do.

Your thoughts, Ted? What is the most likely and most expeditious way
to get marriage equality?

constitutional rights to a vote, the minorities lose those battles. That`s
what`s been happening state after state when...

MATTHEWS: Thirty-some states.

OLSON: Yes, in a row.

And the same thing -- I -- I heard the previous segment. We were
talking about 40 years ago. Forty years ago, in 14 states, it was against
the law for interracial people, people to marry somehow on an interracial


OLSON: The Supreme Court struck that down 9-0. That was a change in
the definition of marriage in those 14 states.

And previous to that, many, many other states, there was a change in
the definition of marriage to allow, by the Supreme Court, to allow persons
to marry someone of the other race. The president`s mother and father
couldn`t have been married in Virginia without going to jail, because they
would have been convicted of a felony in 1967. That was Virginia`s law.

MATTHEWS: So you believe it has to be a right that is recognized by
the court?

OLSON: The Supreme Court of the United States 14 times has said that
marriage is a fundamental right. It`s a matter of privacy. It`s a matter
of liberty. It`s a matter of spirituality.

It is a matter of association. It isn`t for the purpose of
procreation. It never has been. It`s never been a condition by any state
that you had to be able to procreate to engage in marriage. We have a
constitutional right. People in prison have a constitutional right to get

MATTHEWS: And you`re hoping -- you`re litigating this. You`re hoping
the Supreme Court will give you cert, will take up this case and grant that
right in a vote.

OLSON: We hope so.

And if you do it a state-by-state -- I respectfully disagree with the


MATTHEWS: You don`t think it will happen.

OLSON: I applaud him for his decision yesterday, but a state-by-state
basis, how does that help people in Alabama?


MATTHEWS: Well, the only question is, you could go by legislative
actions in those states.

Let me go to Evan.

There`s three ways to do this. The Supreme Court could rule it`s a
right. States could vote for it, which they`re not doing. Thirty have
voted against it. Or the state legislatures in many states -- all over New
England now, I think they`re doing it -- have done it -- to vote by
legislative action to grant that right.

What do you think should be done, Evan?

exactly right that the Constitution guarantees every American the freedom
to marry.

And that`s the same freedom that gay people are invoking, much as
others excluded from marriage in the past invoked it. But the president is
also right that the way our country gets there is through a patchwork of
struggle, in which some states advance further faster, other states regress
and struggle. The country debates, and it creates the climate that enable
to court to ultimately do the right thing, as Ted is rightly talking about.

MATTHEWS: How long do you think it will take to get the majority of
this country covered by equality?

WOLFSON: I actually think we have this within our reach if we do our
work within the next one to two to 10 years. And I realize that`s a big

And believe me, at Freedom to Marry, we`re working as hard as we can
to make it as quick as we can. And thanks to people like Ted Olson, who
have spoken so powerfully as a Republican and as an American to make the
case to conservatives.


WOLFSON: ... and thanks to President Obama, who spoke so personally
and heartfelt yesterday, that`s how we`re creating the climate that moves
things forward.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about the politics of this. If this
becomes a partisan issue in this campaign, because the president stated
clearly he`s for it -- Romney stated yesterday 180 against it.

If this becomes a partisan fight, going through the three debates this
fall, right through the -- into the ballot box in November, will that
advance the cause of state-by-state action or delay it, Evan?

WOLFSON: Well, there is going to be state-by-state action. Also on
the ballot along...


MATTHEWS: Will this debate we`re having between the two presidential
candidates perhaps -- if this gets hot, will that slow or delay -- will it
expedite what you hope to be a 10-year process of the majority of the
people being covered by equality?

WOLFSON: Well, no, I hope it`s less than 10 years.

And the more people talk about it, including the president so
powerfully yesterday talking about the conversations he had with Michelle
and his daughters, that`s how we`re moving hearts and minds.


WOLFSON: And, meanwhile, it`s on the ballot in four states in
November. And court cases are also moving up. They`re all moving forward.


WOLFSON: And it`s the interplay that`s going to get us there.

MATTHEWS: Ted, what`s your sense of having litigated this case, you
and David Boies? And it`s -- I`m all for you guys. I think it`s very
heroic, what you`re doing. I think you`re brilliant, obviously, to do
this, but -- taking on Prop 8 across the country.

What do you think the president`s statement yesterday will do? Will
it be beneficial or deleterious to this whole process that you`re engaged

OLSON: Well, I think what the president did is very, very helpful.

And he was great to do it. That was something that is very, very
important. And the thing -- and the way he said it was very impressive,
the talking about his family, talking about his daughters, talking about
loving couples that he knows to be allowed to have the relationship that
you and I have.


OLSON: And I think -- I agree with Evan. The more people talk about
this -- the polls have shifted enormously in the last few years, from being
against nationwide -- against equality of marriage for same-sex couples to
a majority in favor of it.

What I have found and what David Boies has found, the more we talk
about this, the more we realize that it`s our friends, it`s our neighbors,
it`s our co-workers, it`s the person down the street, our loving couples
want to live together to make a building block out of society.

And, by the way, we had a trial out in California, a 13-day trial with
experts talking about the raising of children. Children do just as well in
same-sex relationships, in same-sex households as they do in a man and a
woman household.


OLSON: In some cases, much better.

The quality of the parenting depends upon the quality of the heart of
the mother and father or the two parents, not their sexual orientation or
sexual identity. The more we talk about this issue, the more people will
understand that it is terribly unfair and discriminatory to deny happiness
and stability to same-sex couples.

MATTHEWS: We all have to be reminded in our civics, Evan -- and I
think you know it well -- that we are not a democracy, a pure democracy.
We`re a republican form of government, where our representatives make the
decisions. And, ultimately, our Constitution rules.

So, let`s look at those three steps. If we`re not going to get
marriage equality by plebiscite, by everybody voting, because people don`t
vote for rights, as you pointed out, you have to do it through politicians
doing it. You`re hopeful -- just to bottom line this -- that you believe
the politicians of this country will act gradually, but inevitably for
marriage equality?

WOLFSON: No, I think it`s the interplay amongst the courts, the
legislatures, and the people that are going to get us there. And that`s
exactly how we are winning.

As Ted knows, the struggles against interracial marriage came to the
Supreme Court, which got it wrong before it got it right. So what we need
to do is continue winning more states and moving more hearts and minds.
That maximizes our chances of ultimately winning in the courts.


Well, let`s see. May the best man win

Thank you, Ted Olson. Good luck in your case.

I have been rooting for these guys for a long time, Ted Olson and
David Boies, who fought each other over Bush-Gore. The wrong development
occurred there. We are hoping this one will be right.


MATTHEWS: Evan Wolfson, thank you, sir, for coming on.

WOLFSON: Good to be with you.

MATTHEWS: Coming up on Sunday, I will be on "Meet the Press With
David Gregory" as one of his panelists. Call it -- catch it on your local
NBC station, as well as "The Chris Matthews Show" every Sunday as well,
which is usually on before the other show.

Anyway, this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Up next: A report in today`s "Washington Post" recounts a
cruel episode that Mitt Romney took part in during his boarding school
days. Yesterday, he had someone in his campaign deny the story, but today
Romney apologized, but said he couldn`t remember doing it. Well, that`s
ahead, and it`s going to be hot here.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


CNBC "Market Wrap."

The Dow snaps its six-day losing streak with a 20-point gain. The S&P
is up three. The Nasdaq, however, is down a point. Jobless claims slipped
by 1,000 last week to 367,000. The economists expected a gain. Meanwhile,
the trade deficit widened in March, with exports surging nearly 3 percent
to a record high. Imports were up 5.2 percent. And the rate on a 30-year
mortgage slipped to 3.83 percent this week, a new record low.

That`s it from CNBC, first in businesses worldwide -- now back to

MATTHEWS: Well, today, "The Washington Post" reported a rather
troubling account of Mitt Romney`s teenage years back when he was about 17
or 18 at a Michigan boarding school.

According to "The Washington Post" story today, Romney picked on a
kid, a fellow student described as soft-spoken and potentially teased for
his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality and for his bleached blond
hair that draped over one eye.

Well, "The Washington Post" reports Romney took offense -- took
offense to the student`s looks and led a group of prep school boys, a
posse, if you will, to corner this student, tackle him, pin him down to the
ground, and then forcibly cut his hair as the student cried and screamed
for help.

Romney says he can`t remember doing it. The victim clearly did.

Howard Fineman is an MSNBC political analyst and editorial director of
The Huffington Post Media Group. And Nia-Malika Henderson is national
political reporter for "The Washington Post," which broke the story today.

So, I guess I have got to go to Nia.

Nia, what can you give us in the context? It seems to me hideously
absurd that somebody would engage in something like this, there were five
witnesses to it, and to deny remembering it. That`s the most cruel part.
How many people`s hair did he cut when he was in school? How many
escapades like this did he engage in that he can`t remember this one? It
doesn`t sound right that he can`t remember.

POST": That`s right.

And he sort of softened this whole idea that he can`t quite remember.
He gave an interview on FOX News about an hour ago where he said he can`t
remember it, but essentially this is the report that`s out there and he
didn`t push back against it. He said essentially that -- sort of admitting
that it happened.

But you`re right. This is a campaign that tried to finesse this all
day, and I asked them for -- if they had any surrogates to sort of push
back against this. And they had been trying to find some of his friends
all day to come out and say, this didn`t happen, or Mitt Romney was really
a great guy in high school.


MATTHEWS: What, he didn`t cut my hair? Is that the defense?

HENDERSON: What`s that?

MATTHEWS: Oh, he didn`t cut my hair, he`s OK.

HENDERSON: They said to imply that he was a bully is absurd. He was
clownish, but never mean.

But this incident certainly does speak to something of a mean streak
that he had. And you have seen his wife come out and talk about this and
say, you know, he likes to prank and joke around and he`s full of hijinks.

And you imagine that that`s a talking point that she probably won`t
say going forward because this is -- this sort of reveals kind of an uglier
side of this -- this...


MATTHEWS: This is not foreign territory for anybody who has got kids,
anybody who has been a kid. You know that there are bullies on campus. If
he`s one of them, he`s got to answer for it.

Here`s how Romney responded to the "Washington Post" story on FOX an
hour ago. Let`s watch.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, I had no
idea what that individual`s sexual orientation might be.

Going back to the 1960s, that wasn`t something that we all discussed
or considered. So that`s -- that`s simply just not accurate. I don`t
recall the incident myself, but I have seen the reports, and not going to
argue with that. There is no question but that I did some stupid things
when I was in high school, and obviously, if I hurt anyone by virtue of
that, I would be very sorry for it and apologize for it.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Doesn`t pass the smell test that he can`t
remember it, Howard.


MATTHEWS: He said a lot of things about it, I felt different at that
time, I had a bully streak, I got over it, I was cruel. We were tougher on
gay kids than we should have been. Anything he could have said would be
believable. But to say I can`t remember putting a kid on the ground with a
bunch of other guys, leading the group to do it, cutting his hair, having
him cry and scream for help, and not remembering doing that?

FINEMAN: Well, Chris, one of the reasons I`m highly skeptical as I
know the school, I know people have been there, it`s the Cranbrook School,
one of the great, small, intimate, very nurturing private school in the
country. Very highly regarded, academically, culturally, very tony.
Something like this happens, it`s something that everybody who participated
is going to remember and everybody at the school is going to know about it.

MATTHEWS: This is what you write novels about it.

FINEMAN: Exactly. It`s a searing kind of thing for anybody. It
doesn`t pass the smell test.

But my take on this is that Mitt Romney in a way has to be careful
because his whole campaign in the primaries was about attack. It wasn`t
about him. It was about attacking the other people. He`s been somewhat
reticent to really open up about who he is, his own life story, he doesn`t
want to talk about the Mormon years, he doesn`t really want to talk about
the details of Bain, et cetera. To some extent, he`s an empty canvas.

And while it may seem absurd about this story what he was like when
he was 16 years old to dominate the news --


FINEMAN: -- the fact is more stories like this are going to come out
once he says more about himself.

MATTHEWS: OK. Update last week, within the last week, Richard
Grinnell, a gay fellow in his staff that he picked out himself, his
spokesman on foreign policy, was drummed out of the campaign. Mitt Romney
didn`t let the finger to keep him. He could have called the kid, the young
gentleman, and said, you`re staying with me, I need you and want to keep
you. All he had to do was stand up to the creeps on the right that were
running him out of the campaign.

Just like in high school, he had the chance to lead. In that case,
he led the bad guys, according to these stories. In this case, he could
have stood up to the bad guys, and he won`t do it.

Character counts, we got to keep asking this question. Here are some
news, by the way, on the top story. The vice president`s office confirms
that Joe Biden apologized to the president`s office by coming out about gay
marriage before the president did. The conversation took place just
before the president`s interview with ABC News.

So there you have a guy acting on his heart causatively getting into
a little trouble at the office, which is not a big story to me. It won`t
last a month.

But here`s one that will. Nia, the Grinnell story. How do you
report anything but the candidate for president is afraid of some little
white wing preacher from Texas somewhere, and rather than back his guy,
backs the creep out of Texas and says you`re off the plantation, you`re of
the campaign because I can`t take the heat for you, brother?

story is that they very much wanted him to stay, that on the one hand, they
felt like he should sort of lay low while a lot of this conversation about
his sexuality and about these tweets was going down, but they essentially
wanted him to stay.

I think one of the challenges Mitt Romney had is he`s got to fill in
the blank of who he is. As Howard said, you can tell that the Democrats
are rushing to do that now --


HENDERSON: -- to make people think of him in a certain way, as a
prep school kid, as someone who is out of touch with normal folks, and he`s
got to rush to figure out how he`s going to present himself. Because for
low information voters, this is the story I think that could really stick
around and damage him so early on. He`s got to try to figure out how to
frame himself as a compassionate conservative.


FINEMAN: Chris, there`s been no soul sister moment, so to speak, on
this or anything else that I can think of to this point with Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: But it`s easy. He could have stand for Richard Grinnell
and he`d be a hero with everybody.

FINEMAN: He could have said, look --

MATTHEWS: It`s so easy.

FINEMAN: Yes -- no, I agree with you. I agree with you.

In this case, yes, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Just say he`s gay, he`s a good guy, he`s a conservative,
he believes in my foreign policy, I need him, get out of my face.

FINEMAN: No, I think that just the measure of the fact that Mitt
Romney is still very tentative and very unsure of his support on the right.

MATTHEWS: I think you`re right, Howard. Thank you so much, Howard

Nia-Malika Henderson, thanks for the report, following up on what the
"Washington Post" did break this morning with a lot of backup, I must say a
lot of reporting there.


FINEMAN: Up next: the man he could end up being the most member of
the United States, Maine`s Angus King. How`s it like to have a name like
Angus King?

He`s running as an independent. He`s not telling anyone which part
he`s got to caucus with. It sounds like a Lawrence O`Donnell story. I
think there was a TV show called "Mr. Sterling" about this guy.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Swiss Miss no longer. Yesterday, "Politico" reported that
Michelle Bachmann had gained dual citizenship with Switzerland. After that
news story broke, Bachmann`s office released a statement saying that she`s
had a dual citizenship since she married her husband who is of Swiss
descent back in `78.

Well, this afternoon, she wrote, quote, "Today, I sent a letter to
the Swiss consulate requesting withdrawal of my dual Swiss citizenship. I
took this action because I want to make it perfectly clear I was born in
America and I`m a proud American citizen. I am and always have been a
supporter of the American Constitution and the United States of America."

I can see why she sent out the letter, but why did she get so

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

An independent candidate leading the field to fill the seat vacated
by Maine Senator Olympia Snowed could well become one of the most powerful
people in Washington. Right now, Democrats control the U.S. Senate, 53-47.
But power could shift in November, seven Democratic held seats and three
Republican held seats are considered tossups.

And Cooke Political Report puts the GOP chance of picking enough
seats to gain a majority at even.

Well, enter independent candidate Angus King. If King ends up in
Maine, he`s got a big lead now. His decision on which party to caucus with
could determine which party has power.

Welcome, Mr. King.

You remind of Nehru, back in the Cold War. You never know which side
he was on and that worked for India. How do you become -- suppose you want
to remain an independent, and I mean a complete independent, would you have
a seat in the middle aisle and have a seat right there in the aisled
between the Democrat side and Republican side? Have you ever thought of
that as a possibility?

unchartered territory, Chris, and what I want to do is remain as
independent as I possibly can, as long as I can, and, you know, there`s all
this business about caucus and Senate rules and parliamentary procedure.
It really is something that we`re going to have to figure out.

But to the extent I can just call them as I see them on behalf of the
people of Maine, that`s the direction I want to go in.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it should be the case, that you have to join
one of the two major political parties in order to get a committee

KING: I don`t think so. You know, I carry the Constitution around
on my iPhone. I`ve got a great app called the USA Manual. If you read the
Constitution, Article I talks about Congress. The word caucus doesn`t
appear anywhere. Neither does the word party.

And I don`t see how you can necessarily exclude a duly elected United
States senator from Maine or anywhere else because they refuse to join one
of the other of the party caucuses. I`ve got to tell you, Chris, this is
what I think is a big part of the problem with the country is there`s more
fighting and bickering and blaming and everything else, and the problems of
the country and they are significant ones, just aren`t being dealt with.

Congress is absolutely not working. And until you make the
institution work that the framers gave us to solve our problems, you`re
never going to get to the solution of the problems. It didn`t always have
to be that way.

MATTHEWS: Why don`t you just -- all right. I`m a student of the
Senate. Why don`t you do something really remarkable? Why don`t you hold
on to that independence really as long as you can, in the other words
forever? Why don`t you go to the United States Senate, hope that you`re
the 50th vote for either side, and you simply, if it works out where you
could be the one with the vice president that decides things, that you go
on and say, look, I`m going to stay here in the center and when I agree
with the majority on this issue, I`ll be with them, when I don`t` I`ll be
opposed to them?

I`m going to be the divisive vote here. I`ll give up all of my
committee assignments in order to maintain my independence. I`m staying in
the middle aisle. I want to seat right in the middle aisle, I refuse to
join any caucus, I will not be bought out by -- with a committee
assignment. I`m not going to take ranking or chairmanship. I`ll just sit
here in the middle and decide all of the key votes.

Why don`t do you that?

KING: That`s absolutely an option. That is one of the options that
I`m considering. But on the other hand, Chris, I don`t want to go down
just to stand on principle and then be a potted plant. I`m representing
the people of Maine and part --

MATTHEWS: Yes, you could be the judge on everything.

KING: Well, yes. If I can be effective on behalf of Maine, if I`m
fortunate enough to be sent down there, that`s absolutely an option. I`m
going to look at all of those options and look at the parliamentary rules
and whether they can constitutionally deny me a committee.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me do some pandering now, because it`s appropriate
pandering. I love Maine. I worked for Senator Muskie for three years. I
think he`s one of the greatest legislators ever, did clean air, did clean
air, did budget reform, he did so many good things.

And there`s something about Maine that liked him. What is about
Maine that likes people in the middle, like Bill Cohen, like Olympia Snowe,
like Susan Collins, like you? Why does Maine not come down on the
automatics of the Democratic side like current day New England, but you`re
somewhere out there in the flinty down east attitude of independence and
libertarian and you guys just voted for Ron Paul for president. What is it
about Maine?

KING: Well, I think it`s cultural and it`s practical. I think it
goes back -- who founded Maine? Fishermen, farmers, foresters. And those
are all solitary pursuits. People that work together but, you know, didn`t
have to rely too much on somebody else doing something for them.

There`s -- flinty is a good word. It goes back further. You
mentioned Senator Muskie, of course, one of the greatest senators of the
20th century. But Margaret Chase Smith who was a wonderful Republican
senator from Maine, but she was always very independent. Nobody knew how
she was going to vote until they got to the S`s in the alphabet, and she
was never a favorite of the good old boys and the --

MATTHEWS: Who are you voting for for president?

KING: I`m going to vote for Obama. I disagree with him on a lot of
matters. I`ve thought a lot about it, but I think given the hand that he
was dealt, he`s done a pretty good job and you`ve got to make a choice.
And I`ve never yet been presented with the perfect candidate. So that`s
the decision I`ve made.

MATTHEWS: If you have a sudden evolution overnight, and join one of
the political parties, please come on HARDBALL and tell us which one.
We`re all watching for that.

Angus King, front-runner for senator for Maine.

When we return, "Let Me Finish" with the history President Obama has
made and probably continues to make. You`re watching HARDBALL, a place for


MATTHEWS: "Let Me Finish" tonight with this:

Barack Obama`s a man of history. His very life has been an event.
This meeting of an American woman from Kansas, with a student from Kenya,
his success leading up to this selection as editor of the "Harvard Law
Review" was eventful, extraordinary really. As he put it in that great
speech in Boston eight years ago, only in this country is my story

Once I speak tonight, he`s been our president for 3 1/2 years and
we`re already used to something that is extraordinary, an African-American
president in the White House. And yesterday, he did it again, becoming the
president declaring himself for same-sex marriage. Years, decades from
now, they will not be talking about the circumstances, merely the
extraordinary fact. No one else had ever done t he did it. He, Barack

And so, we move on to perhaps more history. One thing that I`ve come
to believe that`s political in nature, this is what Barack Obama needs to
be doing, making history. The moment he becomes just another president
maintaining the way things are, he will lose himself. He is a story,
himself. He is I guess I`m saying, a captive of history as a captor. He
needs to be making history over and over again, because if he stops, he
stops being what he can be and the American people will surely know it.

Just think of this -- before you think of the politics, if you`re
black in this country, you know that a black man can be president because
one is. If you`re gay, you know that America at its most idealistic stands
for your right to love because an American president has now declared as
much. We live in a powerful time, and as long as Barack Obama is at the
helm and will continue to be.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.


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