carrie-prejean_web.jpgSince when was honesty a scandal? That’s my question in response to the Miss California USA issue that has recently hijacked the headlines.

Carrie Prejean, Miss California USA and the first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, created a stir when she responded to a question by celebrity judge Perez Hilton by saying, “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.’’

During this year’s Miss USA pageant, Prejean gave an honest and bold answer that should not have been punished by the judges who failed to give her the crown. It would appear that our right to free speech is being severely restricted and hindered to the point of making national news when someone speaks a little too freely.

I asked a couple of other South Florida young people how they feel about this story.

Christina Ward, 15, of Fort Lauderdale, agrees with me.

“She gave an honest answer… they shouldn’t hold that against her,” Christina said.

Not only was it an honest answer, it is a view that many people in this country hold, including the president.

Xavier Gregory, 21, of Sunrise, said, “Everybody should be entitled to their own opinion.’’

We needed this reminder so that people can stop getting into more trouble than it’s worth for speaking their minds.

Prejean’s platform as a national beauty pageant contestant deemed her the perfect target of attack because she has such a high profile.

But the gay activists forgot that she wasn’t alone in her views, and that all of America would feel compelled to exercise their freedom of speech as well.

That’s probably why this has blown up to the scale that it has. People realize that something fundamental is being threatened here, and they won’t stand for it.

While some people like Christina might feel that the media should focus on more important things like the recession, there are those of us who feel that this is a significant issue that deserves the attention it’s getting.

Freedom of speech is a right, according to our Constitution. But based on this recent controversy, it would seem that this right is in jeopardy.

The fact that same-sex couples use their free speech to stifle the rights of those who might not agree with them is purely despicable. I believe that what this country stands for is greater than just living a certain lifestyle in peace; it’s about speaking freely about said lifestyles, whether in opposition or in favor, without the threat of persecution.

Free speech is a two-way street. If same-sex marriage activists were free to question someone’s right to give an honest answer, then someone else should be free to question their right to object. But I think both these actions are un-American and should not be tolerated.

I think the real issue is fairness and justice, two things that America undermines and ignores too often. Too many times, we have had to censor our morals in order to be tolerated and appear tolerant regarding things with which we don’t necessarily agree.

The things that need censoring (porn, for instance) are barely regulated, and this material is far more detrimental to the younger generation than a simple honest reply to a “tough question,” as pageant owner Donald Trump put it.

If we are going to live in a world where true freedom of speech exists, then it needs to exist for everyone, not just the minorities and special-interest groups.

Brittany Hopwood, 18, of Lauderhill, is a senior at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Photo: Carrie Prejean