By Mark JosephWriter/Producer/Author

Miss California USA, Carrie Prejean, doesn't agree with the notion of gay marriage. Now, according to some, that makes her a bad person. Asked by judge Perez Hilton about the issue at the Miss USA pageant, Prejean replied:

"We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that 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."

The response, from some quarters was swift -- and angry:

"As co-director of the Miss California USA, I am personally saddened and hurt that Miss California believes marriage rights belong only to a man and a woman," said Keith Lewis who runs the Miss California competition. "I believe all religions should be able to ordain what unions they see fit. I do not believe our government should be able to discriminate against anyone and religious beliefs have no politics in the Miss California family."

"It's ugly," added Scott Ihrig, who attended the event with his partner. "I think it's ridiculous that she got first runner-up. That is not the values of 95 percent of the people in this audience. Look around this audience and tell me how many gay men there are."

If Prejean's views are "ugly," than she's not alone on the public stage: During the last presidential campaign President Obama answered the same question by declaring:

"I'm a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

Elton John has also weighed in, saying:

"If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership... The word 'marriage,' I think, puts a lot of people off. You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships."

Whether we agree with Prejean, President Obama and Elton John or not, there is one thing we should all agree upon: All Americans deserve the right to debate issues and disagree with each other without threats, intimidation or ad hominem attacks. -- Those who want to convince their fellow citizens about the rightness of their cause can best accomplish that by convincing, not shaming them, into agreeing with them.

Mark Joseph is a film producer and marketing expert who has worked on the development and marketing of 25 films. His most recent book is The Lion, The Professor & The Movies: Narnia's Journey To The Big Screen.