Lauren Ashley, a Miss California USA contestant and outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, claims to represent Beverly Hills; Beverly Hills lays no claim to her whatsoever.
Quite the opposite.
In a statement Wednesday, the city said it was "shocked" by Ashley's description of herself as "Miss Beverly Hills." The city "does not sponsor a beauty pageant and has no association with Miss California USA," the statement said. "As such, there should be no individual claiming the title of Miss Beverly Hills."
The city's statement said Ashley lives in Pasadena and "does not represent Beverly Hills in any capacity."
The issue became a sore point for city officials after Ashley, 23, was quoted extensively as saying same-sex marriage goes against God and the Bible.
She recently told Fox News and other outlets that "in Leviticus it says, 'If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.' The Bible is pretty black and white."
To Beverly Hills Mayor Nancy Krasne, those were fighting words. "We are dismayed by any potential association with the city of Beverly Hills, which has a long history of tolerance and respect," Krasne said.
Keith Lewis, a K2 Productions stage director for the Miss California USA pageant, said Ashley's "Miss Beverly Hills" moniker was of her own choosing. Under pageant rules, he said, "the girls pick the territory they represent. Her representation area is Beverly Hills USA. When she competes [in November], her sash will read 'Beverly Hills USA.' "
According to Lewis, Ashley was attending a birthday party for Paris Hilton on Feb. 17 when a reporter asked for her view on same-sex marriage. Lewis, who is gay, said she has since been unfairly pilloried.
Lewis produced the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So," about how the religious right has used its interpretation of the Bible to support its effort to stigmatize the gay community. He thus considers himself "a credible person to ask for respect and tolerance."
"I don't agree with her," he added, "but I will fight to the death for her right to have her opinion."
Ashley's comments were made just months after Carrie Prejean, the dethroned Miss California USA 2009, settled her legal duel with pageant organizers over her high-profile stand against gay marriage.
A bit of history serves as backdrop. In 1977, one-time beauty queen Anita Bryant spearheaded a successful drive to overturn a gay rights ordinance in Dade County, Fla. Before long, she was speaking about the evils of homosexuality even as she promoted the virtues of oranges. The media generally took a harsh view of her views. She lost endorsement deals and vanished for a time from show business.
Beverly Hills said it had contacted pageant officials to see how to prevent any future beauty contestants from claiming the title of Miss Beverly Hills. The pageant is put on by K2 Productions in L.A. Ashley declined comment.
A frequent shopper in Beverly Hills, Lewis said he was surprised that the city would risk alienating anyone at a time of such economic challenge. But he sees a bright side. "I love the fact that people are tuning in for something other than the swimsuit portion of our competition," he said.