Miss California keeps crown, for now

Whether Miss California USA Carrie Prejean of La Jolla keeps her crown remains unclear, but pageant organizers did announce Monday that first runner-up Tami Farrell will fulfill at least some of her duties under the title of Beauty of California Ambassador.

The move was made because Prejean--embroiled in controversy over risque photos of her and her opposition to same-sex marriage--has neglected her duties as the title-holder, said Keith Lewis, co-executive director of the Miss California USA pageant.

“Up until now, we have just been riding along pretty much a passenger on this runaway train but, as of today, that ends,’’ Lewis said.

Prejean, 21, raised the ire of Miss USA judge Perez Hilton, who is gay, when she responded to his question about gay marriage by saying people in America have the right to choose whether they support same-sex marriage, but that she is personally opposed to such nuptials.

Since then, Prejean has continued to speak out in opposition to same-sex marriage, appearing in commercials for the National Organization for Marriage and recording a telemarketing ad to gather donations for the cause.

At a news conference in Beverly Hills, Lewis and pageant executive director Shanna Moakler said that while they initially gave Prejean the latitude to further express her beliefs, her commitment to groups actively opposing marriage between gays and lesbians is causing her to miss contractually obligated appearances as Miss California USA.

“Accepting the title comes with a responsibility to represent everyone in the state, not just those who share her opinion. It comes with an obligation to fulfill the duties of the job,’’ Moakler said. “Carrie has been unavailable to us, to her sponsors and to her responsibilities as Miss California USA because of her commitment to outside organizations.’'

Prejean was not in attendance at the morning news conference because she was on her way to New York. Donald Trump, who owns the Miss USA pageant, will announce there Tuesday whether she will be booted as first runner-up in the pageant.

The organizers of the Miss California USA pageant said they forwarded materials to Trump, including the fact that Prejean breached her contract by failing to disclose that she had posed for topless photographs.

In the photos, Prejean is standing sideways covering her breasts with her arm, revealing less of her than could be seen during the swimsuit portion of the televised Miss USA competition.

Through her lawyer, Prejean has asked that the operators of the Web site remove the photos, which were posted without her knowledge or permission, and tell where they got them, but so far they have refused both requests.

Lewis said he is exhausted by the ugly situation. “We’ve been pretty much hijacked at the moment and been unable to do the work at hand,’’ he said.

As for the organizations that encouraged Prejean to continue voicing her opposition on the marriage issue, Lewis said they should feel shame. “Shame for taking this young woman and exploiting her to further your own agenda. Shame for not preparing her for the firestorm you knew you were creating and most of all, shame for doing it while all the while knowing you placed her in a position where she stood to possibly lose her crown not for her beliefs, as you’ve so screamed, but for the breach of contract you so willingly

encouraged,’’ Lewis said.