Cover Story

Evolutionary changes?

Issue: "The narrow runway," Oct. 14, 2000

Last year, national Miss America Organization (MAO) executives, led by CEO Robert Beck, dropped a bombshell on their state counterparts by removing a requirement that pageant contestants swear they had never been married or pregnant.

Challenging 50-year-old standards, the proposal spurred an uprising among state pageant directors, who did not discover the change until asked to sign new contracts. "Ours is a high moral value code and we have had these rules for generations," said Miss Kentucky state director Libbi Taylor, who joined other pageant directors in filing a lawsuit against the national board.

State directors won the battle-Mr. Beck was later fired and his proposal "tabled"-but the war continues. This March, Mr. Beck filed a lawsuit of his own, challenging his firing and arguing that New Jersey anti-discrimination laws require the change he proposed.

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The new president-former hotel casino operator Robert M. Renneisen Jr.-told The New York Times that such pageant changes could emerge on "an evolutionary basis." Clarifying that remark in an interview with WORLD, Mr. Renneisen said, "If, at some time in the future through court action or legislation, we are forced to consider those changes, then we'll have to face that decision at that time. But it is not something we are going to voluntarily change ourselves." He also said that he wasn't aware of any anti-abstinence perception: "The choice of a personal platform is a personal choice for each of the contestants."

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