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    Storm Gathers as Miss California Launches "Traditional Marriage" Campaign

    Life among the beauty queens is turning ugly.

    Miss California Carrie Prejean may have lost the Miss USA tiara, thanks to her opposition to same-sex marriage, but she's won the spot as the latest right-wing darling, solidifying her staying power on the conservative scene by helping launch a new campaign in Washington, D.C., today for the anti-gay-marriage group National Organization for Marriage.

    "I'm here to protect traditional marriage," Prejean told the Today show of her partnering with NOM, the same group responsible for the much-parodied "A Gathering Storm" ad.

    "I was attacked for giving my own opinion onstage at a Miss USA contest. I'm gonna do whatever it takes to protect marriage. It is something that is very dear to my heart and I'm just here to protect it, that's all I'm here to do."

    That, and stir the pot.

    Responding to criticism that she should have waited until at least the end of her Miss California reign before lending her suddenly infamous face to such a polarizing cause, Prejean said she doesn't find it to be in any way a disservice to her sash.

    "I think this is a huge issue right now. People are very passionate of this issue. I think regardless of our opinions, we just need to respect each other when we disagree. It's all about respect."

    If so, somebody forgot to tell the organizers of the Miss California pageant, whose codirector Keith Lewis today released the following statement on Prejean's foray into political activism:

    "In the entire history of Miss USA, no reigning titleholder has so readily committed her face and voice to a more divisive or polarizing issue.

    "We are deeply saddened Carrie Prejean has forgotten her platform of the Special Olympics, her commitment to all Californians, and solidified her legacy as one that goes beyond the right to voice her beliefs—revealing instead a much more opportunistic agenda."

    Shanna Moakler, a onetime Miss California and outspoken executive director of the state's pageant, has stepped up to the bedazzled plate, publicly taking Prejean to task over her comments.

    Moakler has so far responded with a new print ad opposing Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, but took her fight to Access Hollywood, confirming the organization paid for Prejean's breast augmentation and calling for her to retire her crown.

    "She wants to go and tell her story around the country and I think that's fantastic," she said. "I think that's great if that's what she wants to do, and if she wants to do that, then she should release herself as Miss California USA.

    "Give it to another girl who wants those responsibilities and that title and she can go tell her story. We will celebrate that and we'll support her on that."

    (Originally published April 30, 2009, at 7:37 a.m. PT)


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