Here she is, Miss Marriage Martyr USA

The runner-up from California says her stance on same-sex unions cost her the beauty pageant crown.

Published April 21, 2009 7:12PM (EDT)

Miss California, who came in second in the Miss USA pageant on Sunday night, now says that her stance on same-sex marriage --  she's opposed -- cost her the crown.

Broadsheet readers will recall that at the pageant, celebrity judge and self-described "queen of all media" Perez Hilton asked contestant Carrie Prejean if other states should follow the lead of Vermont, which recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

In her answer, Miss California's coined the phrase "opposite marriage" to describe the kind of union she finds acceptable: "I think it's great that 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 and my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be, between a man and a woman." Video is here.

Hilton later registered his disgust with Miss Califoria's answer by calling her a "dumb bitch" in a video blog. He argues that Prejean should have given a less divisive answer: "There were various other ways she could have answered that question and still stayed true to herself without alienating millions of people," he told CBS News.

In a Monday interview with "Access Hollywood," Prejean risked sounding like a sore loser as she said she'd been robbed of the title for speaking her mind: "I feel like I won. I feel like I'm the winner. I really do," she said. The answer "did cost me my crown. 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."

Hilton initially apologized for calling Prejean a b-i-t-c-h, and then decided to retract his apology. "Over the course of the last 24 hours, the more I thought about it, the more, you know what? No. I'm gonna stand by what I said just like she's standing by what she said," he told MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell. Bonus: Hilton said he didn't mean to call Prejean a bitch in the first place. "I was thinking the c-word and I didn't say it," he said with a laugh. Despite stoking the flames with crude sexist pejoratives, he later blogged that all of this drama is unjustly detracting from Miss North Carolina's moment of glory. (Remember Kristen Dalton? She actually won the crown.)

But this beauty queen slugfest isn't limited to Hilton and Prejean. Apparently, the contestant's answer alienated even her own handlers. Former Miss USA Shanna Moakler, who is now the director of the Miss California USA pageant, spent weeks before the Miss USA competition in Las Vegas campaigning for Prejean to win. But after Prejean's remark on Sunday night, Moakler wrote on Twitter: "This is why we have judges at Miss USA, so we find the girl to rep us ALL," according to Fox News. "I don't know how you can call a gay man or woman your friend and not want them 2 have the same joys as yourself. In my family we believe in equal rights for all, I am sad and hurt, I agree with Perez 100 [percent]."

In a blog post on her MySpace page, Moakler sought to further distance herself from Prejean's views, saying she lost the crown because "she wasn't able to convey compassion for ALL the people that as Miss USA she would be representing," including gays and lesbians. Moakler also issued a formal apology to the state pageant sponsors, saying: "Prejean's opinions do not stand for those of the Miss California family."

Not being inside the pageant bubble, it's laughable to think of Miss USA representing all of us Americans, as she sashays around the globe during her reign. Still, it's remarkable that same-sex marriage has come so far into the American mainstream that pageant officials quake to hear a top contestant speaking out against it, and rush to calm corporate sponsors when she does so.

We can't wait to hear what questions they ask the contestants competing to be Miss New York next year.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Katharine Mieszkowski

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