WASHINGTON (BP) --- With the assistance of Miss California USA Carrie Prejean, a leading conservative group launched a television ad Thursday saying the criticism the beauty contestant has received is symbolic of what will happen to religious freedoms if the nation legalizes "gay marriage."
Prejean herself is featured in the 60-second National Organization for Marriage ad, which claims "gay marriage" supporters "want to silence opposition." It will air in several markets, including New Hampshire, where conservatives are trying to urge Democratic Gov. John Lynch to veto a "gay marriage" bill that seems headed to his desk.
Prejean appeared on NBC's "Today Show" Thursday morning and at a press conference later in the day where the ad was unveiled.
"I was attacked for giving my own opinion onstage at the Miss USA contest," she said on NBC. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to protect marriage. It's something that is very dear to my heart."
Asked her opinion on the subject during the Miss USA pageant April 19, Prejean said she believed "marriage should be between a man and a woman." She finished as first runner-up, and the judge who asked the question -- celebrity blogger Perez Hilton -- posted a video saying Prejean lost because she is a "dumb [expletive]." A second judge, Las Vegas entertainment reporter Alicia Jacobs, wrote on her blog that Prejean "made the mistake of not knowing when to shut her mouth" and that if Jacobs could have done so, she would "have made her 51st runner-up."
Giuliana Rancic, a news anchor on E! Television, wrote on her Twitter account regarding Prejean, "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."
Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said the attacks on Prejean have helped open eyes in the ongoing debate over redefining marriage. Gallagher's organization was the same one that released a much-debated ad called "Gathering Storm" in early April. That ad said "gay marriage" legalization has a negative impact on parental rights and religious liberty.
"I think what is happening with Carrie is resonating enormously, because gay marriage advocates have been unable to persuade the majority of Americans that they're right, so what they've switched to doing in the wake of the Prop 8 victory is trying to silence, harass and intimidate good people who don't agree with them," Gallagher told Baptist Press. "So, this ad uses what happened to Carrie to communicate that this is wrong and that gay marriage is going to have consequences, because we're seeing the consequences already. What will this movement do when they have the power of the law to back them up? They believe people like Carrie are like bigots who oppose interracial marriage."
A Quinnipiac University Poll released April 30 showed that by a 55-38 percent margin, registered voters nationwide would oppose a law in their own state allowing "same-sex couples to get married." The poll surveyed 2,041 registered voters.
The TV ad shows Prejean giving her answer and then shows Hilton's name-calling rant. The ad also shows Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese saying not about Prejean but about "gay marriage" in general, "It's no longer palatable in this country, OK, to be an outright bigot." An ad narrator then says, "Gay marriage activists attacked people for supporting traditional marriage because they won't debate the consequences of same-sex marriage. They want to silence opposition. Some of the nation's foremost scholars warn that gay marriage can create widespread legal conflicts for individuals, small businesses and religious organizations."
Prejean -- who has made clear she's speaking as a private citizen and not on behalf of the pageant -- told the Today Show that she has been encouraged by the outpouring of support. She spoke at her church, The Rock Church in San Diego, last weekend.
But there hasn't been much support coming from Hollywood or the pageant industry. In the wake of the new ad, the Miss California USA pageant released a statement saying, "In the entire history of Miss USA, no reigning title holder has so readily committed her face and voice to a more divisive or polarizing issue." It further said Prejean has "solidified her legacy as one that goes beyond the right to voice her beliefs and instead reveals her opportunistic agenda."
The controversy has even reached Britain, where Alan Duncan, a member of Parliament, joked, "If you read that Miss California has been murdered, you'll know it was me, won't you?"
Gallagher told BP that "what you're watching happen is what we told people would" happen. She said the reaction by the left "is backfiring."
"I think the ad will give inspiration to the millions of next generation of young adults who don't believe gay marriage is the civil rights issue of the century and who the media constantly tries to convey that these people don't exist," she said. "I think Carrie will inspire a lot more of the next generation to come out of the closet and stand for the truth of marriage."
Prejean previously told the Today Show that here answer "was not about being politically correct."
"For me, it was being biblically correct," she said.
The controversy over Prejean could only intensity this summer if Miss USA Kristen Dalton becomes Miss Universe. If that happens, then Prejean would be elevated to Miss USA.
The National Organization for Marriage's first ad featured stories of people who have been harmed by laws protecting homosexuality. The examples included were: a Massachusetts husband and wife whose second-grade son was read a book about "gay marriage" at his public school; a New Jersey Methodist camp association that lost part of its tax-exempt status because it refused to rent its beach pavilion to a lesbian couple; and a California Christian infertility doctor who was told by the state Supreme Court she could not turn down treatment for same-sex couples based on moral grounds. Massachusetts recognizes "gay marriage," and California did at the time of the court's ruling. New Jersey recognizes same-sex civil unions.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about the National Organization for Marriage, visit NationforMarriage.org. To read how "gay marriage" impacts parental rights and religious freedom, visit www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=30209