DAVIS -- Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the royalty of Davis Senior High School's junior class: Brandon Raphael and his prince, Kiernan Gatewood.
For what appears to be the first time in school history, the Davis Senior High student body has elected a gay couple into homecoming royalty. With each boasting a white sash declaring his title as "Prince," the two 16-year-olds rode through the city of Davis on a recent Friday afternoon in the school's annual homecoming parade.
They stood in the back of a pickup truck, arm-in-arm, smiling warmly despite the rain.
"People were so excited for us," Gatewood said of the couple's victory, announced a few weeks ago. "We were a little surprised, but Davis ..."
"Is a liberal town," interrupts his boyfriend of four months, Raphael. "Go 10 miles in any other direction and you'll get some other feeling."
Indeed, the news might surprise few in Davis, a city embraced and, at times, mocked for its liberal leanings.
But students and adults cheering on the boys recognized their election as a meaningful milestone.
Lai-San Seto, advocacy coordinator for the San Francisco-based Gay-Straight Alliance Network, said the Davis Senior High homecoming election is not the first case of gay students bucking tradition. But it remains far from the norm, Seto said. And usually by the time she hears about such things, they've become a controversy within their community.
"It's a sign that LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) people are getting recognized everywhere," she said. "LGBTQ are considered vital members of the school community and are able to participate in school events in the same full way that their straight fellow students are able to."
Seto applauded the Davis Senior High student body for its acceptance -- and the school administration for being "open-minded."
In the weeks since officials announced the homecoming court, there's been no public outcry -- not by campus leaders, not by students and not by the community.
Students said they were encouraged that the election was not an issue for campus administrators. They said they were less surprised that a gay couple would win than they were that officials allowed it to happen.
"I thought the administration would have more to say about it," Raphael said.
Principal Michael Cawley declined to comment on the boys' election, saying only that he hoped to keep the issue "low-key."
Students, however, were eager to talk. They piled atop floats and lined the parade route to show their school spirit, armed with air horns and fistfuls of candy.
Some have been celebrating their friends' landmark victory for weeks.
"I think it's just such a good thing for our school. Just knowing that the other kids recognize them as a couple and would vote for a gay couple to be prince and prince of homecoming. ... I don't know, I just think it's awesome," said senior Chandler Fox, co-president of the campus Gay-Straight Alliance. "I want people to know about it so maybe it can happen at another school."
Decked out in Davis Senior High's colors of blue and black, sophomore Charlotte ter Haar and two friends agreed that the election was significant because it came straight from the students -- Raphael and Gatewood won in a write-in ballot election.
Couples could campaign for their class titles -- king and queen for seniors, prince and prince(ss?) for juniors, etc. -- but no names appeared on the ballot. Students wrote in their own candidates.
"The students voted for who they wanted to win," ter Haar said.
Parent Lorna Bernard said she was taken aback by the news -- only because in her day, a gay couple stood to be harassed by their peers, not elected.
But Raphael and Gatewood, she said, are "not just accepted, they're popular -- popular enough to be elected as homecoming princes."
And that, she said, is "really cool."
As for the boys, they said they campaigned hard in anticipation of the election. But their goal, they said, was not to make a political statement.
"We wanted to be nominated and win," Raphael said.
Added Gatewood: "Just like anybody else."