Although Miss North Carolina Kristen Dalton was crowned Miss USA on Sunday, it was not this portion of the nationally-broadcasted segment that emerged as the most “sparkling” moment.

Instead, the buzz was sparked by a question posed by Perez Hilton, an openly gay celebrity gossip blogger and one of thirteen telecast judges on the panel.

When asked by Hilton whether she thought every state should follow the example of Vermont and legalize same-sex marriage, Carrie Prejean, beauty queen and Miss USA 2009 representative from San Diego, California (that’s right—the Prop 8 state itself) responded with the following answer which, one of the judges says, probably cost Miss California the Miss USA crown.

“Well I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offence to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman. Thank you.”

Following the contestant’s honest response which Mr. Hilton later dubbed as “the worst answer in beauty pageant history” (Shall we draw comparison to the Miss Teen USA “like such as south Africa and uh the iraq” fiasco of 2007?), Hilton proceeded to use obscenities to describe 21 year old Carrie Prejean. Although Hilton apologized to Miss Prejean following his outburst, he later told MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell

“I said the B word…and um I was very angry. And you know what, I don’t apologize. I apologized yesterday because I was upset and angry and I thought…I thought I may have been too much in the moment. But over the course of the last 24 hours the more I thought about it the more…you know what, no I’m going to stand by what I said just like she’s standing by what she said.” (The rest of Perez Hilton’s statement was not aired on MSNBC due to inappropriate content.)

This in response to Miss Prejean’s polite statement of her opinion about the subject of gay marriage–which is what Mr. Hilton specifically asked her to do! Upon providing an honest and forthright answer, she was publicly and personally attacked by someone who claims to support freedom of speech and expression for all people, lifestyles, and beliefs. One would think this freedom from and hatred of discrimination would encompass all dissenting viewpoints.

We now understand. Two college students have the audacity to ask Barney Frank a reasonable question about his role in the current financial crisis and are automatically labeled right wing extremists. 341,472 to 623,000 fed-up Americans exercise their right to lawfully and peacefully gather on April 15 to express their anger and opposition to higher taxes and increased spending; and mainstream news anchors brand them as racists and morons. Bloggers and Journalists like E! News’ host Giuliana Rancic circulate statements like “i know i’m a journalist, and i should be objective…but she is an ignorant discrace [sic] and she makes me sick to my stomach.” A young woman politely presents her opinion about marriage before the group that will determine her fate as a beauty queen, and her statement ignites attacks in the most derogatory words possible. Check out Perez Hilton’s blog and be shocked.

And the silence of those so adamant in defending the rights of the people with which they agree, is deafening.

The traditional understanding of marriage is an important religious belief for many Americans, but the freedom to express this belief will come under growing pressure as courts, public officials, and private institutions come to regard the traditional understanding of marriage as a form of irrational prejudice that should be purged from public life.

Now we understand. Express opinions counter to the liberal elite and you’re dead. Finished. No crown. How lucky we are to be in living in such enlightened times. Carrie described the experience like this:

“I don’t think I gave the worst answer in beauty pageant history, but I didn’t give the answer that he…would have wanted me to give…Immediately after he asked me the question I started talking and I said should I be politically correct or should I follow my heart and follow what’s right to myself and my beliefs. And I said, you know what, I’m laying it out on the table this is who I am and this is what I believe and I’m gonna stand by what I believe.”

Well, Miss California, thank you for standing by your principles even when the stakes were high. Even President Obama stated in his Call to Renewal Keynote Address in 2006 that “[S]ecularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.” But we think it’s important that you know not everyone agrees with you. But that’s alright; we also support their right to respectfully disagree.

For more information about Heritage research on marriage and the consequences of redefining marriage, go here.