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SAN ANDREAS, CA - In a community known for its conservative values, the high school senior class chose the only openly-lesbian students as "cutest couple."

Destinee Gates was as surprised as anybody that she and her girlfriend, Becca Fernandez, beat out at least three other couples vying for the honor at Calaveras High School.

"It's a big deal because we're from a really conservative county and it hasn't happened before," said Gates, 18.

The couple has been openly dating since freshman year without any major problems, but worried about a backlash when they were named cutest couple in the yearbook two weeks ago.

"We've been pretty well accepted," said Fernandez, 19. "I love this school," Gates added.

Principal Ric Stitt said he understands why outsiders might be surprised by the senior vote, but said he's found the community to be very tolerant.

"Calaveras County and a lot of our rural counties often get stereotyped as being unaccepting," Stitt said. "And I think that's a false perception."

Gates and Fernandez graduate tomorrow and both plan to attend Columbia College in Sonora in the fall.

by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net

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