Other than a few extra chaperones, Lincoln High School made no special plans for the first senior prom in the United States ever to host a gay couple.

Randy Rohl, a 17-year-old senior in earrings and a powder blue tuxedo, arrived at last night's dance with Grady Quinn, his 20-year-old male date-a friend who is the partner of the local gay coalition's president.

Camera lights ignited and reporters jumped to life as the two entered the Downtown Holiday Inn's Embassy Room, but the disruption was brief and largely ignored.

The two melted into the throng, indistinguishable in their boutonnieres and brightly colored tuxedos. The only special treatment they got was a lot of room on the dance floor.

The National Gay Task Force in New York said it was the first time in America that such a couple had been allowed to go to a prom.

In the week since the couple's permission to attend the prom hit the headlines. Sioux Falls has had a chance to view itself from a national perspective.

"What's the news in all this?" asked Lincoln Principal Fred Stephens. "What do they think we are in Sioux Falls, a bunch of people with big thick red necks letting fairies to go to the prom?"

Stephens referred to a spot on NBC's Saturday Night Live show last week poking fun at Sioux Falls and its trend-setting stand.

But Stephens didn't think he was being liberal. He didn't think he had a choice:

"The rules only say one prom-goer has to be a senior. They could take their mother if they want. Homosexuals have rights, too; you have to accept that."

Stephens,tall, balding and soft-spoken, has received letterss from all over the country. Local response was light, he said, and mostly supportive.

"I'm quite an unassuming person," he said in describing letters from friends. "Getting myself in a situation as an advocate for gay liberation is humorous to them. But I'm not promoting it. There are some real confines of the law."

Not so humorous were the counstant phone calls from national news media after the story broke locally. Stephens was worried that the publicity would reflect poorly on the school, and he worried about the gays' safety.

"My concern is the welfare of the prom and to guarantee the safety of all students attending," he said. "This is a fine school with a fine staff and kids. Reading the papers has somehow taken away from that. I'm concerned that kids don't feel as good about their school because of this publicity."

But the kids shrugged it off with jokes and went to the prom with a good time in mind. It was a typical school dance, with the band showing up late and dancers slung around each other's shoulders. In fact, one student said as she left early, it was boring.

Stephens has hoped for an uneventful evening because the school wants to be invited back to the ballroom of the nice hotel next year.

In discussion earlier Tuesday, Stephens sat in his office cluttered with mail and newspaper clippings. with a sigh, and a "why me?" face, he lamented how the press had grabbed the story in the first place.

"We have the feeling the press used Lincoln to make a point," he said.

"Most people in this community can separate the legal and moral issues.

"If people will forget it, it will all be fine."

Which led an unsuccessful fight against the carols last year. The ACLU maintains that students should not be subjected to religious influences as part of public schooling.

The brief, which attorneys said was filed with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, challenges a ruling earlier this year by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Bogue. Bogue held that singing "Silent Night" in a South Dakota school Christmas pageant did not violate the constitutional separation between church and state.