Here we go again.

The news that Lady Gaga was going to deliver a speech at Deering Oaks on Monday in favor of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” had barely hit our website when the comments starting pouring in.

Not about the policy concerning gays in the military. There were a few of those. But most were about whether Lady Gaga should have delivered her speech at all.

“What is sad is that people like this can and will actually sway voters …”

“This will be good entertainment for the High School kids that’s about all …”

“Go put some more ridiculous clothes on, Gaga. Stick with music …“

“I want to know who ever convinced actors and rock stars that their egotistical, self-indulging opinions are in any way relevant to our societal decisions?”

Regular readers of this column may remember that I addressed the issue of celebrities speaking out on social causes in the July 29 issue, when Sheryl Crow’s concert at the Cumberland County Civic Center was announced and received the same reaction on pressherald.com. My argument was, and still is, this:

Whoever convinced actors and rock stars that their opinions were relevant? The U.S. Constitution.

Celebrities have been voicing their opinions on social issues since the birth of modern entertainment in the early 20th century (and, in more subtle ways, before then). They’ve stood side-by-side with community activists on everything from civil rights and women’s rights to the elimination of world debt. They helped pull victims out of the wreckage of the World Trade Center. They perform for free at countless telethons, benefit concerts, fundraisers and other events.

I admire Lady Gaga for voicing her opinion on such a divisive issue. She could have easily said nothing, thereby avoiding controversy and protecting her career. But she didn’t. Instead, she felt passionate enough about it that she decided to speak out in a public forum, knowing that it would invite scorn from some circles.

What’s more, she used her real name — Stefani Germanotta — which is more than many online commenters do. It’s easy to voice an opinion when no one knows who you are; it’s much harder when the entire world knows who you are.

Whether you like Lady Gaga’s music is irrelevant. Whether you like the way she dresses is irrelevant. Whether you think she’s a good role model, or an appropriate voice for the gay community, or someone who puts on too much makeup, or whether you’re annoyed by her tendency to say “gaga” in her lyrics are all irrelevant.

What is relevant is that she has the right to say what she wants, where she wants. Just as you have the right to agree or disagree with her.

What’s relevant is that this is still the United States of America.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

[email protected]