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Mrs. Raleigh Finds Place in Christmas Parade

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RALEIGH, N.C. — She will not have her own float, but Mrs.Raleigh 2003 will have her place in the city's Christmas parade.

Melanie McNeely asked to ride on her own parade float like otherbeauty queens, but she was refused by parade organizers.

WRAL-FM extended her an invitation to ride on its float.

"I'm ecstatic," McNeely said. "I feel like I won the battlebut not the war."

Parade sponsors said Thursday that they would not stand inMcNeely's way.

"They can allow anybody to ride on their float, as long as it'snot pornographic. That's their business," said John Odom,executive director of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association,which sponsors the parade.

The merchants association limits individual floats to titlewinners in contests sponsored by the Miss North Carolina and MissAmerica organization, which are open to single women.

In March, the 28-year-old mother of twins beat out 25 others forthe title of Mrs. Raleigh, a competition open to all married women.

Orlando, Fla., lawyer Lynn Franklin, who represents the Mrs.North Carolina pageant, threatened to sue not only the merchantsassociation but also the city of Raleigh because city officialssanction the event.

Franklin, a former Miss Wilmington, said the policy amounted to"blatant discrimination against married women."

Franklin said the pageant is considering a lawsuit to force apolicy change and is seeking advice from successful pageantlitigators, including Chapel Hill lawyer Barry Nakell, whorepresented Rebekah Revels in her bid to regain the right to callherself Miss North Carolina.

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