The high school prom is typically a highlight in a teenager’s life. It’s a chance to dress up, celebrate with friends and dance the night away. But for one young couple in southwestern Ohio, their prom became a barrier-breaking moment for the school district.
Students at Kings High School in Kings Mills, Ohio, voted to name 18-year-olds Annie Wise and Riley Loudermilk the year’s prom queen and king. The lesbian couple is believed to be the first LGBTQ+ couple crowned in the district.
The Kings School District posted the results of the student election on its official Facebook page on April 17 and congratulated the happy couple.
Wise and Loudermilk, who have known each other since elementary school, began dating about six months before their coronation, according to CNN. Both girls were surprised by the prom election results. They knew they were nominated and thought a few of their friends would vote for them, but to see support from their fellow students like this meant the world to the graduating seniors.
“I didn’t think that we would’ve won because prom king and queen just seemed like a popularity thing,” Loudermilk told CNN. “It was definitely so exciting to know we had so many people who had supported us.”
Wise said there was “a lot of screaming and jumping” from friends when the announcement was made.
“My crown fell off and it broke,” Wise told NBC News. “There was a lot going on, but it’s something I’ll never forget. It was amazing.”
The couple has received a lot of attention as a result of their coronation. The school’s social media posts got a lot of visibility and comments. National news outlets even picked up the story and shared it on their own social media platforms, as with this one from @NBCOut.
Annie Wise and Riley Loudermilk are the first queer couple to be elected prom king and queen in Ohio's Kings Local School District.
After pushback from some parents, they've received a wave of national support.https://t.co/jNGMGogP7Y via @JoYurcaba
— NBC Out (@NBCOUT) May 2, 2021
Some of the attention hasn’t been positive, though. A number of the commenters criticized the district for allowing an LGTBQ+ couple to be prom king and queen. And a number of parents in the Kings School district voiced concern at a school board meeting.
One parent who spoke out at the meeting stood in opposition to the decision to allow Wise and Loudermilk to remain prom king and queen.
“Sorry, but I believe that there are still two genders — a male and a female,” the parent said, according to Fox 19 News. “I think tradition stands for a queen that has a vagina, a king that has a penis and testicles. Period!”
But district officials stood behind the students’ decision.
“This is solely a Kings High School senior class nominated and voted-on initiative,” said Dawn Gould, a community relations coordinator for Kings Local School District, as reported by WLWT 5.
Jen Kirby, who is Wise’s mom, told WLWT that while the negativity against her daughter and her girlfriend made her “sad,” those opinions did not diminish the pride she felt.
“Some people, you’re never going to change their mind. And you know what? That’s OK too,” Kirby said. “People are allowed to believe and feel what they believe and feel.”