Originally Published: April 21, 2009 10:43 a.m.
The crown for Miss USA 2009 was not placed upon the head of first runner-up, Miss California, but she can proudly wear a different crown - the crown of integrity and honor.
During the annual Miss USA pageant Sunday each finalist was asked to answer a question presented by one of the different judges.
Judge Perez Hilton, who is openly gay, presented this question to Miss California, Carrie Prejean:
"Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit, why or why not."
Prejean provided an answer that many believe cost her the crown. She said:
"I think it's great Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what in my country, in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be, between a man and a woman."
After the pageant Hilton publicly slammed Prejean in an online video blog, calling her a dumb b----." Hilton later apologized in his blog but then retracted his apology. He continued to vehemently criticize her on his blog and on national television, saying she should have given a more politically correct answer and using more vulgar expletives in his criticisms.
In his video blog Hilton also said what he would have done if Miss California had been crowned the winner. "I would have gone up on stage -- I s--- you not - and snatched that tiara off her head and run out the door."
But Prejean maintained her position without malice.
"I wouldn't have had it any other way. I said what I feel. I stated an opinion that was true to myself and that's all I can do. It is a very touchy subject and he [Hilton] is a homosexual and I see where he was coming from and I see the audience would've wanted me to be more politically correct. But I was raised in a way that you can never compromise your beliefs and your opinions for anything."
Another judge, former Miss USA Claudia Jordan later said Prejean should have given a more vague, middle-of-the-road answer that would have played to her audience. "She should have known her audience better," she said.
But the way I see it, Prejean was asked a direct question and she answered from her heart. Isn't this what was expected?
Prejean later said. "I think he [Hilton] is angry, I think he's hurt. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. He asked me specifically what my opinion was on that subject and I gave him an honest answer."
I think Perez Hilton should be ashamed of himself. Gay or straight, had he conducted himself with a fraction of the dignity that Prejean showed he would have better represented his cause. Instead, he is an embarrassment and comes off looking childish and ignorant.
Hilton and Jordan should have recognized that the more important lessons here are not of political correctness or playing to your audience, but rather the value of standing up for what you believe, showing honesty and the moral courage to be true to yourself - even when what you believe may not be popular or accepted by those around you.
By her example, Prejean showed millions of young people that they do not need to lower their standards or compromise their beliefs for a crown of worldly praise. Runner-up or not, she's the kind of Miss USA contestant we can all be proud of.