A Sea Change at Miss USA

Olivia Culpo's announcement receives applause.

BY Neal Broverman

June 04 2012 10:48 AM ET

We've come a long way from Carrie Prejean — Miss Rhode Island Olivia Culpo was crowned Miss USA on Sunday after voicing support for transgender beauty contestants.

Culpo was asked if transgender women should be allowed to enter beauty contests. Culpo responded, "I do think it would be fair ... " because "there are so many people who have a need to change for a happier life. I do accept that because I believe it's a free country." Culpo was soon named the winner of this year's pageant.

After Jenna Talackova, a transgender woman, was allowed in April to compete in Miss Canada, the Miss Universe organization changed its rules to allow transgender women to compete (with a little urging from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

While Culpo's support of transgender contestants received applause, it was only three years ago that then-Miss California Carrie Prejean famously declared that same-sex marriage should be illegal.

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