Let me tell you a fairy tale. Once upon a time, a gorgeous blond California girl -- let's call her "Carrie" -- wanted to be a beauty queen.
Asked about gay marriage, "Carrie" blurted out her truth: "I believe all Americans should enjoy equal rights to get married whether it is same-sex or opposite marriage. That's the way I was raised, and that's the way I think marriage should be."
Afterward, a judge proclaimed her answer so offensive he voted against her and wanted to rip off her tiara. Instead of rebuking the judge, pageant officials said that "Carrie" needs to meet anti-gay marriage folk to assuage the "hurt" she has caused them. A media firestorm ensued.
"Carrie" explains to the press that her Christian faith taught her that gay marriage was right. She even appears at a press conference with the Human Rights Campaign, which some said violated her contractual obligations.
Roll back the tape. What would that alternate Carrie's life be like right now?
Carrie Prejean is right.
She has made many mistakes in her young life, including some that Catholics like me would call sins. But when I was 22 years old, Carrie's age, I had a child out of wedlock.
I hope young women watching learn something from Carrie's ordeal; ideally something like: Don't have sex with men who aren't willing to marry you. But if that is too elevated an ideal, try this one: Girls, don't send any pic to your boyfriend you don't want your mom or Matt Lauer to see.
An embarrassed Carrie wasn't fully truthful about her private and personal life, which ended up making things more difficult for her. (Could any of those folks who defended Bill Clinton's right to commit perjury about sex please step up and say a kind word or two for Carrie?)
But fundamentally, Carrie is right: None of this spectacle would be happening to her if she had submitted instead of speaking truth to Hollywood power.
The hatred she has generated is inexplicable and ugly. The people who are intent on sexually shaming Carrie have no shame themselves. Admittedly, I am getting kind of old. But in my old-fashioned view, boyfriends who release personal information on ex-girlfriends for money and/or to embarrass them are scum. I don't understand the newsworthiness of these allegations.
Seven million Californians voted for Prop 8. Quite a few of them are people who committed sexual sins of various kinds. Why is this one 22-year-old girl carrying the whole weight of that on her young shoulders?
A few people have asked me if Carrie is now going to "stop" working for me. The truth is she doesn't work for NOM (National Organization for Marriage). We cut a TV ad without asking her approval using publicly available footage, and then we asked her to appear at a press conference to promote it. Out of the goodness of her heart she agreed, for which I remain grateful. I was asked to introduce her at several events, and I would do so again.
I really wanted Carrie to work for me because I believed she may have had a calling to help fight for the other Americans who believe as she does that marriage is the union of husband and wife.
But Carrie did not want to be a crusader on the gay marriage issue, or the leader of a Christian youth movement. She just wanted to be a model, or an entertainer, or a sportscaster, or a news reader -- the kind of thing you'd imagine a 22-year-old beauty queen might dream about. I don't know why so many people are exulting over the idea they may have killed her young dreams.
I hope the people gleeful about this attack are enjoying their pyrrhic victory. What they have done says far more about them than about Carrie, who turns out to be a not-unusual California 22-year-old.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.