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Trump drops pageant rule

Businessman Donald Trump has overturned a decision by the Miss Universe Organization, which he owns, to...

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Businessman Donald Trump has overturned a decision by the Miss Universe

Organization, which he owns, to disqualify a Canadian transgender beauty

pageant contestant because she was not a "naturally born" female.

Jenna Talackova, a tall blonde who underwent

gender-reassignment surgery at age 19 and holds legal documents affirming her

identity as a woman, wants pageant organizers to go further and drop

eligibility rules she calls discriminatory.

Talackova, 23, was kicked out of the Miss Universe Canada competition

last Friday after she was selected as one of 65 finalists. The winner of that

contest, who ultimately will be crowned on May 19 in Toronto, will go on to

represent Canada in the global Miss Universe Pageant later in the year.

In throwing her out, pageant organizers

accused Talackova of having "falsified her application when she said she

was born female," adding that the Miss Universe Organization "has

rules which apply to all of its franchises around the world."

Her disqualification sparked commentary on

the Internet and cable television news shows about the boundaries of gender

identification, civil liberties and the rights of private organizations to set

their own rules.

Talackova, who carries a Canadian passport,

driver's license and birth certificate that all identify her as a woman,

appeared on Tuesday with Los Angeles-based attorney Gloria Allred, a

high-profile legal advocate for women's causes, demanding to be allowed back

into the contest.

'I WAS DEVASTATED'

"I am a woman. I was devastated and I

felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust,"

Talackova said in a statement she read to reporters.

She and Allred also called for the Miss

Universe organization to abolish its rule requiring contestants to be

"naturally born" females. Allred called it "an antiquated rule

grounded in prejudice, fear and stereotypes."

"It isn't just about her being able to

compete," Allred said. "Jenna is standing up for others as well as

herself. She doesn't want this type of discrimination to be faced by anyone

else."

But by then, pageant organizers had already

reversed course on Talackova's eligibility at the behest of Trump, who is

president and owner of the Miss Universe organization.

"As long as she meets the standards of

legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, which we understand that she

does, Jenna Talackova is free to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada

pageant," said Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump and executive vice

president of his business group.

"Nobody is capitulating. Rather the

Miss Universe organization is respecting the laws of Canada," Cohen told

Reuters, adding that she, "like all the other contestants, is wished the

best of luck by Mr. Trump."

He also said, "Assuming she wins, she

would be the representative of that country (Canada)" in the larger Miss

Universe Pageant.

Reached in a separate telephone interview, a

Miss Universe spokeswoman, Brenda Mendoza, agreed, saying, that "if

(Talackova) were to win the (Canadian) title, she would move on to the global

telecast."

As to demands that the pageant do away with

its naturally born female requirement for eligibility, Cohen was non-committal.

"At this point in time, the Miss

Universe Organization, along with its counsel, is taking this issue under

advisement," he said.