When front running Miss USA contestant Carrie Prejean was asked whether all fifty U.S. states should legalize gay marriage, her answer lit a firestorm of controversy.
The Question: "Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit, why or why not."
Miss California's answer: "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."
Here's the video (followed by my commentary):
Now before writing what she should have said, I would like to make a couple observations about what she did say. Notice that she did not say that gay marriage should remain illegal in the other states. She said in fact, that she thinks it's great that Americans can choose one or the other. That does happen to be factually inaccurate- if she means that all homosexuals can marry in America- because as the question clearly stated, gay marriage is only legal in four states. She did express however, the sentiment that it's great for people to be able to choose, free of any interference by the law, which she then qualified with her personal belief that heterosexually is the better of the two choices.
I would like for homosexuals and gay rights activists to extend to Carrie Prejean the same right that she affirmed they have, the right to choose. Is it intolerant for her to say she believes homosexuality is wrong? Should she keep her morality to herself? If you answered "yes" to both those questions, then you have accused her behavior of being wrong and you haven't kept your morality to yourself. You've been intolerant by your own standards. You see, the essence of tolerance is disagreement. You disagree with someone, but you do not forcibly coerce them into acting according to your conclusions. You allow them to act according to theirs even if you disagree with them.
I think Miss California's answer was a perfectly good summation of the proper attitude for someone like her (who has conservative sexual mores) to have. She said she thinks it's great that people can choose, but she personally disagrees with some of their choices. Miss California summed up the essence of tolerance. It was an extremely tolerant answer to give. Unfortunately, it didn't really answer the question.
The question was whether the other 46 states (53 if you're Barack Obama) should legalize gay marriage. A much better answer would have been: "Yes. Absolutely. The other states should legalize gay marriage. Not everyone agrees with it morally or would make that same choice, and they are certainly entitled to their beliefs, but homosexuals are also entitled to theirs and it is not the proper role of government to regulate the personal morality and sexual mores of its citizens."
But the best answer would have been: "You know, this is a tricky question that has bitterly polarized our nation, but it seems to me there is a clear solution that should satisfy both sides. Instead of all fifty states legalizing gay marriage, they should de-legalize straight marriage. Social conservatives would be happy to see government regulating one less thing- marriage is after all, a private, religious institution and it seems odd that government should regulate it and license people to marry. Then the issue would become a private one, and believers in gay rights would be free to decide for themselves what marriage means."