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April 24th, 2009
04:38 PM ET

A beauty pageant gets ugly

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/24/art.miss.ca.jpg]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Like an earth tremor on the San Andreas Fault, or the paparazzi behind Britney’s car, I could have told Miss California it was coming.

I had a long chat with Perez Hilton a few months ago and he made it screamingly clear that while he earns a living as a celebrity blogger, his life is about gay rights. So I was not surprised when he threw that ticking bomb of a question at her while he was serving as a judge during the Miss USA contest: “Do you think all states should approve same-sex marriages?”

The answer from Carrie Prejean, just in case you haven’t heard, was polite and in keeping with typical beauty pageant punditry. After saying she thinks it is great that people can choose their own mates, she added, “I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

Often when people say “no offense,” what they mean is they are about to offend you, but you shouldn’t get all huffy about it. And that is precisely how many same-sex marriage proponents took her comment. They have been slamming the First Runner Up as intolerant on the blogs, YouTube, TV, and every other available platform.

And her supporters have been slamming right back by posting their own messages saying either that she is right to defend traditional marriage, or the critics are wrong to attack her free speech. One Alabama legislator even introduced a measure to commend her actions. Of course, he may just be snippy. The last time a Miss Alabama won the Miss USA crown was more than forty years ago, and this year she didn’t even make the top 15.

The real scandal in the contest, I should mention, is the extraordinary dominance of Texas: 8 crowns since 1985. Seems fishy. I’m just saying.

I digress. It’s easy to portray either side as the victim. But in the modern world of public debate, there are only winners coming out of this mess. Sure, Prejean did not win the crown, but she’s been on TV a heck of a lot more than the winner (who was that, by the way?) and even without a tiara, she’s being treated like royalty by people who share her views.

Hilton and his supporters are also getting what they want and that is another chance to publicize their struggle to have same-sex marriage approved coast to coast.

The fight is only going to get uglier, but the combatants on each side would have it no other way. As long as they are in the headline, they are sitting pretty.

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Chris

    Miss California has the first ammendment right to say what ever she wants. I am a gay man and a former Californian. Believe it or not San Diego is a conservative city. To her defense, she did say, "This is how I was raised!" It is a fact that this is how belief systems perpetuate unless something changes the minds of individuals. One of the duties of Miss America, if I have not been misinformed; is working with the New York City Gay Men's Health Crisis. This is something Donald Trump has stipulated for winners of the title. The NYCGMHC is a place where many gay issues abound. Would she have been a good fit there with an answer like that? I don't know. I do not believe the gay community should be beating her up because of, "how she was raised." This is a great opportunity for her to get involved with some of our issues....meet some people. "World Peace" would have been a better answer....even to that question. Equality for all people will be a reality. They gay movement for equal rights will continue and strengthen each day. The clock is ticking. Iowa and next New York......it's all a matter of time.

    April 27, 2009 at 11:24 am |
  2. james

    if people on either side of this issue are offended they really don't have any clue as to why we are here in the first place and are so far from seeing the light that their responces scare me,as we should be far enough along in our destiny to be waaaay above this.

    April 26, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  3. josie marrero

    If she's pro, the other judges slam her
    Being against it, the gay community slams her
    It was a no win situation for her.

    April 26, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
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