Don’t Answer If You Don’t Agree With Me

In the latest pop culture dust-up over California’s Proposition 8, a pair of queens at a beauty pageant this weekend touched off a media firestorm when one of them asked the other for their opinion on gay marriage and that person dared to speak her mind. The queens in question were celebrity blogger Perez Hilton (the self-proclaimed “queen of all media”) and Miss California, Carrie Prejean, and the pageant in question was Miss USA. If you haven’t seen the video clip, you can watch it here. But essentially it goes like this:

[during the judges’ questions stage of the competition]

Perez Hilton: “Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?”

Carrie Prejean: “You know what, in my country, and in my family, I think that 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. And that’s how I think that it should be: between a man and a woman. Thank you.”

[massively shocked, disappointed look on Perez Hilton’s face]

Prejean’s response was honest. She answered the question. But for Perez Hilton, it was the wrong wrong wrong answer. He gave her a score of zero for the answer.

Hilton, who is openly gay, could hardly contain his venomous anger. On his blog on Monday he fired back by calling Miss California a “dumb bitch” and saying “She gave THE WORST ANSWER IN PAGEANT HISTORY.” Really? What about that “The Iraq” girl? On Tuesday, Hilton told The Today Show that he had expected Prejean to be “better prepared” to answer a question on gay marriage. Because apparently being against gay marriage means you don’t know what you’re talking about? He also said that he wished she had “left her politics and religion out” (even though he asked her a thoroughly political question) and that in his view, Miss USA should be “politically savvy, saying things that will make everyone feel comfortable. I don’t want her to be talking about Jesus Jesus Jesus…”

When asked by another interviewer how he thought Prejean should have responded, Hilton said, “A very simple way she could have answered it is, ‘as a future Miss USA it is my job not to be a politician, but to be someone who represents and inspires the women and the troops, and I think it’s great that the states get to decide for themselves.’ Something like that… she would not have had to insert her own personal politics into it.” But wait, wasn’t Hilton inserting his own “personal politics” into it—forcibly putting Miss California into a situation that pretty much demanded a political response? And wasn’t the answer that he was no doubt hoping for—“Yes, I think gay marriage should be allowed in every state, for all people”—just the sort of political answer he supposedly thinks should be left out of pageants? Perez, my friend, logic and consistency are not your strong suit. Stick to drawing outrageous scribbles on pictures of Britney Spears.

I guess the most alarming thing about this is that Prejean was demonized and scorned for DARING TO TAKE A POSITION. Hilton asked a specific question. Prejean gave a specific answer. It’s absurd to immediately dismiss someone’s point of view just because it isn’t your own point of view. If discourse has truly been reduced to this sort of “you better agree with or you’re a dumb bitch” kindergarten close-mindedness, then the world is in worse shape than even I thought.

29 responses to “Don’t Answer If You Don’t Agree With Me

  1. Love the post title!

  2. I understand why Perez would be upset, but it’s not like Miss California said, “I hate gay people.” In order to find a solution to the gay marriage debate, we need to discuss this with civility. Both sides need to hear each other.

  3. While I agree with Miss California, that marriage is between a man and a woman, I was disappointed with her answer. She sounded like a right-wing nut job. I don’t blame anyone for giving her a hard time.

  4. What I find unbelievable about all of this outrage is how vanilla her answer was.

    Asked whether states should follow Vermont’s lead by legalizing same-sex marriage, she essentially said from that a. the great thing about America is people can choose whether or not they want same-sex marriage legal in their state and b. if given the choice she would vote against legalization of same-sex marriage.

    She even added “no offense” as cover for what was a personal opinion informed by the understanding of scriptures she was taught growing up.

    In my opinion, the only thing “controversial” about her answer was the way the attention-starved judge over-reacted to an honest answer. And what’s sickening is that the judge is now eating up all of the attention and is even more of a household name than he was two days ago.

  5. I had heard about something regarding Miss California, but I hadn’t heard the full story. That’s really ridiculous. I think the title of your post sums it up perfectly, not just for this incident, but for so many areas of life today. Tolerance and relativism are the values of the day — unless you disagree with the most loudly-voiced opinions. Kudos to Miss California for taking a stand (albeit a somewhat timid one, but who wouldn’t be a little cowed in that situation?).

  6. While I have an opinion opposite of Preejan, I respect her for being honest with her answer. However, what really bothers me is that we’re holding up Perez Hilton as some kind of authority on this (or any other topic).

    Of course Perez is going to run to his little blog and bad-mouth this woman the next day. That’s because he, just like many conservatives, believes this is a black-and-white issue.

    But don’t let his reaction speak for the rest of the country. To give someone a Zero just for stating an opinion different from yours is absolutely ridiculous. It’s petty and it’s unfair.

    Perez Hilton is using this for attention. And the fact that thousands of blog entries (and comments to blog entries!) have been devoted to this over the past few days shows that he has succeeded.

    But please don’t let his childish and rude reaction speak for all of us who believe that the sky won’t fall if we allow gay couples to marry.

  7. Good point Gabe. I promise not to use Perez Hilton as a gay marriage “Straw Man” in future arguments thanks to your eloquent post.

    Have past Miss America contestants ever been asked to comment on an issue that guarantees that either the “red states” or the “blue states” will hate her?

    Perhaps one cannot be Miss America without being able to please a critical mass of the American electorate by talking out of both sides of their mouth.

    I hope in future Miss America contests that there will be some titillating discourse on abortion and the economic stimulus package.

  8. you guys are all missing the point.

    the problem is not what her answer was or the way she handled it. The problem is that no one is allowed to speak for marriage. The discussion simply won’t allow it. The parameters of the discussion are getting narrowed and altered as to shut other opinions out. Any opinion in favor of marriage is automatically marginalized and looked on as “kooky” or “right-wing nutcase”. You cannot come across as reasonable and support marriage btw man and a woman-it is not allowed anymore. If you do, it is now okay to call you (on national television!) “bigoted” and “homophobic” or “a crazy bitch,” and no one questions your decency.

    No one has questioned Hilton’s bias-he’s considered much more mainstream. He is justified for saying she “doesn’t represent Americans” or is “abnormal.” In all the interviews he’s done, these opinions have never been challenged. They are assumed to be normal and valid.

    Meanwhile, to be in favor of marriage means you have to be on the immediate defensive, because you are hateful.

    Why isn’t anyone noticing this? How quickly we allow our focus to drift.

    I think this is partially what Brett is trying to get at here.

  9. As much as I really don’t care about Perez Hilton or Miss America, I wonder how many people would applaud her for giving her honest opinion if she said that, in her opinion, marriage is between a man and a woman of the same race, and that the great thing about America is that states can choose for themselves whether interracial marriage should be legal.

  10. Kevin Erickson

    Hilton’s stunt was to inject a question of meaning and significance into an environment purposefully drained of meaning and significance; a sickly anachronistic patriarchal ritual.

    Prejean was of course factually incorrect in claiming that people get to choose what kind of marriage to enter into (the part of the transcript that you omitted). And she didn’t answer the “why” part of the question aside from saying “that’s how I was raised,” which is not really an argument–though I realize the standards for logical thought at these events are not high.

    I’m sure this episode will fuel the anti-gay right’s familiar persecution fantasies for a while but those of us who experience actual persecution every day in the form of unequal treatment by our government can see that “persecution” is as artificial and substanceless as, say, a beauty pageant.

  11. Actually, Kevin. Hilton’s stunt serves as a catalyst for a second right-wing complaint.

    He was another liberal judge, legislating from the bench.

  12. I’m confused. I thought the judging of this section of this kind of contest was on the composure and articulation of the contestant. They’re supposed to judge them on HOW they answer not WHAT they answer. By giving her a zero the Hilton guy robbed her!

  13. Tim,

    The difference there is fairly obvious. The definition of marriage tends to come down to a moral issue (even in our politics – whether thats good or bad i don’t intend to comment on). that is, those who oppose the rights of gays to wed oppose it based on a moral principle. It’s not just a matter of political agenda or even based on defending marriage in a traditional sense. No, in large part, it is based on a moral stance regarding sexuality, then applied to traditional thought on marriage.

    No thinking person opposes interracial marriage based on a moral standard, especially because Biblical teaching in the NT specifically focus on the idea of homosexuality.

  14. I suspect that no one ever told Perez Hilton that “beauty comes from the inside”

  15. David–

    I recommend you learn your history. Interracial marriage used to be illegal in this country for precisely the same reason that homosexual marriage is currently illegal in most states– it was a ‘moral issue.’ Interracial marriage wasn’t fully legal across the country until Loving v. Virginia in 1967– at the time, 16 states had laws against interracial marriage. The Loving case had made its way to the Supreme Court (activist judges!) after an appeal by the Lovings; their marriage was deemed illegal in 1959. The Virginia judge said, in part, ‘Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.’ There was also an anti-miscegenation amendment proposed for the US Constitution in 1871, in 1912–1913, and in 1928. Now does any of this seem eerily familiar?

  16. It would seem to me that equating anti-same-sex marriage statutes to anti-miscegenation statutes would require equating differences in melanin amounts in the skin to differences in basic biology that enable human life to continue.

    Such an equation appears unwise.

  17. Her opinion is her opinion….it shouldn’t be a factor…we’re allowed to disagree in this country….or at least we USED to be able to!!

  18. Thank you Brent T for that succinct observation.

    The traditional concept of marriage has its support in the existence of two distinct and complementary genders, the union of which allows for the creation of new life. The gender make-up of the marriage couple is supremely relevant in this matter—the color of their skins completely irrelavant.

    That said, my assessment of the Miss USA flap is that that was a really ridiculous question to even ask. Entertainment masquerading as political grandstanding (and vice versa) is really starting to wear thin.

  19. Brett and HS,

    If I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that the purpose of marriage is procreation.
    (correct me if that’s not what you’re suggesting…)
    In that case, the Amish or African marriage which produces 7-10 children has more value (is more of a “true” marriage) than the Wall Street couple who opted to have 1.
    Or how about the couples who are physically unable to procreate? What is the state of their marriage? Is it any less valid? Do we condemn as sinners those senior divorcee’s who decide to marry in their 70’s even though the chance of having kids has far surpassed them?

    As you said Brett, such an equation seems unwise.

    And I don’t believe the original equation was about “melanin amounts in the skin” versus “differences in basic biology.” The equation is between the idea that marriage used to be illegal between interracial couples based on moral grounds, and now marriage is now illegal between homosexual couples based on moral grounds. Those are very equatable.

    Getting back to the topic however, why has no one commented on Prejean’s use of the term “opposite marriage”?
    That’s just hilarious!

  20. Thanks Ryan.

    Further, the language of the Loving decision includes this:

    Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

    I don’t see why language about freedom, human rights, liberty, discrimination, equality, etc. is tied to race and not to gender. As well, I was responding to David’s assertion that ‘No thinking person opposes interracial marriage based on a moral standard,’ which is historically false. There were, as well, ‘biological’ arguments for anti-miscegenation laws, mostly based on eugenics. And the reason that this sounds horrible and racist and freedom-choking to you which anti-same-sex-marriage arguments do not is, I’ll wager, a function of the period in which we live rather than the soundness of either argument.

  21. Ryan wrote:

    “Brett…,

    If I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that the purpose of marriage is procreation.
    (correct me if that’s not what you’re suggesting…)”

    Consider it done.

  22. Brett wrote:

    “Consider it done.”

    Ha. You actually need to correct me for this response to be worth anything.

    What were you actually suggesting?

  23. Tim,

    I understand that there have been times in history when people opposed interracial marriage based on moral grounds, however, no thinking person does today. That was my point. However, we can debate the historicity of that point till were blue in the face and still completely the miss point.

    The question is whether homosexuality is fundamentally immoral. When it comes to interracial marriage we aren’t even discussing sexuality in the same way. The interracial debate centers ONLY around skin color. Should two people who are of opposite sex but also differing skin colors be allowed to marry and thus have sexual relations? This has nothing to do with a natural order of sexuality. But homosexuality must. Sex between two people of the same sex necessarily functions in a completely different fashion – one many people would suggest is unnatural. Thus, the two debates are built upon differing pillars. One is a matter of racial divide, its about skin color. The other is about the right of order and nature of sexuality. Two fundamentally differing arguments. Hence my suggestion that the two shouldn’t be considered comparable points.

    Like all else, it comes down to the nature of things.

  24. David,

    My point is that the argument you are making is pretty much identical to arguments made about interracial marriage 50 or 100 years ago– that it’s ‘unnatural’ and ‘immoral.’

    I don’t see why the question is, as you put it, ‘whether homosexuality is fundamentally immoral.’ The government has no reason to care whether something is moral. And simply because something defies what you personally believe to be the natural order of things does not make it immoral– organ transplants, for example.

    But I’m not really interested in arguing for why gay marriage needs to be legalized. I just wanted to point out the historical myopia, the cultural relativism, and the begging-the-question nature of those people who simultaneously think 50-yr-old arguments against interracial marriage are intellectually dishonest but contemporaneous arguments against homosexual marriage are intellectually honest.

  25. Or let me put it this way: You’re absolutely right that no thinking person makes these arguments about interracial marriage today. However, many thinking persons make these arguments about homosexual marriage today, and these arguments are interchangeable with arguments that thinking persons made against interracial marriage 50 years ago. Why do you think this is?

  26. Perez Hilton was asking a question about gay marriage at a beauty pageant. How can anything in the above statement be taken seriously?

    Perez Hilton.

  27. It all boils down t this:
    She was asked a question about what her opinion was on gay marriage and she gave an answer.
    Hilton disagreed to he decided to slander her publicly, which is beyond obnoxious seeing that the last time I checked we were free to have our opinion and speak our opinion without fear of persecution (not wanting to talk about Jesus, Jesus… please). Even, anti-Semitic groups and pro-Segregationists still have their rights protected to think what they want and voice their own opinions.

  28. Ryan —

    By all means. You said that if you understood me correctly, I was suggesting that the purpose of marriage was procreation. I was not.

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