- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2002

CRETE, Ill. (AP) This small town in the suburbs south of Chicago has been shaken since two girls were voted "cutest couple" last month by their fellow seniors at Crete-Monee High School.
Administrators balked at first. Then several students walked out of class to support the lesbian couple.
It is a drama that, for a time anyway, awakened this sleepy town, lined with antique shops, churches and cafes, and still surrounded by cornfields.
In the end, the girls' parents though a bit shellshocked agreed to let a photograph of the couple appear in the school yearbook.
And last week, district superintendent Roberta Berry wrote a letter praising the students at Crete-Monee High: "I am proud to say that while other schools continue to address issues such as alienation, bullying and hate crimes, we have a student body that not only accepts each others' differences, but also celebrates them."
Some upset parents and community members have called to complain and have written letters to the editor of local newspapers.
But others are supportive a sign, students say, that times are changing.
"This isn't 1952 anymore. I think people need to realize there are different people everywhere," says Rachel Urban, 17, a Crete-Monee senior. "If 15- and 17-year-olds are mature enough to handle this, the rest of the country can."
There are other examples of students supporting their homosexual peers. In 1999, an openly homosexual high school student in San Anselmo, Calif., was elected homecoming king. Last year, a lesbian from Ferndale, Wash., was elected king at her prom.
Meanwhile, students at an increasing number of schools are forming pro-homosexual support groups, and more school districts are training teachers to work with homosexual students.
At Crete-Monee, officials and even students have chosen not to reveal the names of the "cutest couple" girls, whose parents didn't know they were homosexual until the vote.
"The girls are understandably overwhelmed and so are their families," school district spokeswoman Sue Rossi said.
Choosing senior "bests" is a long-standing tradition for Crete-Monee seniors. Each year they cast their votes for categories such as "most likely to succeed" and "most likely to shock us at our reunion."
Though there were three or four senior couples who'd been together through most of high school, the majority voted for the girls.
Classmates say it was done with sincerity. They say the girls, popular students who are active in sports and other extracurricular activities, can often be seen holding hands in the school's hallways.
"I think people voted for them because they're so open about their relationship and how good it is," says senior Danielle Cheatom, 17. "They're actually in love and care about each other."
"They really are the cutest couple," said senior Nick Renfroe, also 17, who was among about 60 students who protested last month outside the school, fearing that administrators would withhold the girls' photo from the yearbook.
Several students were suspended for two days for taking part in the protest.
Maris Formas, a 17-year-old senior, says that the issue brought to the forefront students who'd never been class leaders before.
"The teachers are amazed at our dedication," she said. "I was, too."

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