The Miss Universe Organization announced today that it will begin allowing transgender women to compete in its annual beauty pageants starting next year.

The decision, which follows last week's ruling to allow booted Miss Universe Canada contestant Jenna Talackova to rejoin the pageant, was the "result of our ongoing discussions with GLAAD," Miss Universe president Paula Shugart said in a statement. "We have a long history of supporting equality for all women, and this was something we took very seriously."

GLAAD applauded the move and Talackova for helping bring it about. Said Herndon Graddick, GLAAD's senior director of programs:

At a time when transgender people are still routinely denied equal opportunities in housing, employment and medical care, today's decision is in line with the growing levels of public support for transgender people across the country.

Talackova was initially disqualified from competeing in the 61st Miss Universe Canada pageant. The official reason given, that contestants must be "naturally born female," set off a firestorm of criticism online. Officials finally relented five days ago, and even Donald Trump, co-owner of the Miss Universe ORganization, wished Talackova best of luck.

[Image via AP]