44 Years Ago a Sioux Falls Prom Became Part of History
Sioux Falls is a special place. We are surrounded by natural beauty that is unparalleled. It's a hotspot for growth and history. And it has been that way for decades.
44 years ago this May (2023) Sioux Falls again found itself a part of history.
On May 23, 1979, Randy Rohl and Grady Quinn became the first two openly gay people to attend a prom together in the United States.
“It was just us being real and being who we are.” - Grady Quinn
In early May 1979, Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls approved a request from a male senior to bring another man as his date to that year's prom.
The Argus Leader reports that at the time, the only rule for prom was that one-half of the couple had to be a senior.
The request was from Randy Rohl. It was approved and on the evening of the 23rd, the couple wore powder blue tuxedos, red rose boutonnieres, and silver pierced earrings to the Downtown Holiday Inn’s Embassy Room.
″The only special treatment they got was a lot of room on the dance floor,″ Randy told reporters at the time.
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Reports at the time said that there were some police on hand, and Rohl did get threats. Also, the Sioux Falls school's Superintendent had some pointed comments reported by the press.
"It's pathetic and sad...Other than some danger, such as safety or whatever, we have no way to exclude him."
But, despite some initial commotion from the media, the dance went on as planned.
After the prom life continued as normal and the pair lost touch. Quinn moved to Omaha, Nebraska for school. Rohl moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota. He traveled the world and settled for a time with family in Germany.
Randy returned to Minnesota in 1993 to be close to family because his health was getting worse. Randy was weak and dying from complications of AIDS. Randy passed late in the evening of December 31, 1993.
In 2019 Sioux Falls Pride held the first Randy Rohl Youth Prom to honor Rohl and to provide students who don't feel safe or welcome at their school's prom with a place to celebrate.
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Sources: Associated Press, Argus Leader, Minnesota Public Radio News
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