We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage, and you know what, in my country and in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offence to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman.

Sound familiar? This was Miss California’s answer to a question in the Miss America Pageant last week about whether all states should follow Vermont’s lead in legalising same-sex marriage.

Predictably, the religious right are now heralding Miss California (Carrie Prejean) as their new hero and poster girl for -˜opposite’ rights. But the foundations upon which Ms Prejean’s, and her followers’, beliefs rest are increasingly untenable in today’s world.

Her first sentence, -˜We live in a land that you can choose’, relies on a brand of libertarianism in America that says everyone is free to do as they choose and that no one’s behaviours should be dictated by the State. Here, she is saying that although people should be able to choose whether they like same-sex marriage or not, gays and lesbians should not be afforded those same liberties to have access to the institution of marriage. Essentially, the argument is that everyone should have the freedoms to do and choose what they want, except for gays and lesbians.

Secondly, she trots out the -˜I was raised that way’ argument. It is inevitable that one’s upbringing has an impact on one’s belief systems. However, had she been raised, for example, as an anti-Semite or as a racist, society has now changed such that those beliefs are no longer acceptable in the mainstream.

However, the fact that there has been an uproar in much of the mainstream media in response to Ms Prejean’s answer indicates that this is slowly, but surely, happening with homophobic attitudes too.

Homophobic attitudes, whatever their justification, are increasingly unacceptable. It’s not about political correctness, and it’s not about curtailing the freedom of speech of those who would seek to have us all converted. It is about upholding basic standards of respect for the diverse human family.

Emily Gray is the co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.

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