Harvard Couples Marry

Jessica E. Schumer

Bren Bataclan, left, waits with his partner Bob L. Parlin '85 for a marriage license at City Hall. The couple was the first same-sex couple to have a commitment ceremony in Memorial Church in 1998.

Six years after they walked down the aisle in Memorial Church’s first commitment ceremony, Robert L. Parlin ’85 and his partner filed for a marriage license at Cambridge City Hall early Monday morning.

“It’s a part of history. Finally we’re getting equal rights compared to our heterosexual friends and families. Finally we’re not second-class citizens,” Parlin said.

Parlin, who came out as a first-year at Harvard College, met his partner Benjamin Bataclan while dancing at the Boston club Avalon, and they’ve been together for nine years. Their marriage, planned for Thursday at Old Cambridge Baptist Church, will change their everyday life, Parlin said. His partner is self-employed, and cannot receive health benefits under Parlin’s plan without being legally married.

“We will be saving a substantial amount of money in terms of health benefits,” said Parlin, who is a public school teacher in nearby Newton.

As an undergraduate studying history and literature, Parlin said the gay and lesbian community on campus was an extremely supportive group of students.

“It was actually surprisingly active, there were a lot of students who were out, and a very thriving gay community,” said Parlin. “I think that in most parts of the country in the early ’80s, gay rights were really somewhat taboo and being gay was a much more invisible thing. But I never felt stigmatized, and I got a lot of support from my friends coming out.”

A member of the Harvard Glee Club up to the end of sophomore year, Parlin said that in the late ’80s, the Glee Club was an integral part of the gay student life on campus, with at least 15 gay members.

But Parlin was not personally involved in the gay marriage debate this year.

“I was actually very depressed by the level of hatred on behalf of the religious right, and I just couldn’t bring myself to go up to Beacon Hill,” he said. “It’s a very depressing thing to watch other people debate what rights you should have.”


Meanwhile, the Lowell House Masters, Diana Eck and Dorothy Austin, are also planning on filing for their marriage license within the next couple of weeks.

When they arrived at City Hall on Monday, they were the 268th couple in line, and decided that they didn’t need to file for it that night or even that week.

“It was wonderful to be down there at City Hall, and to see people together, talking about their relationships, and to see the kind of affection and outpouring of support from the crowd,” said Austin, lecturer at the Harvard Divinity School and associate minister at Memorial Church.

Austin, 60, met Eck, 58, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies, at an organ recital in Memorial Church, while they were both finishing up their graduate work.

They have served as Masters of Lowell House for the past six years, and say that their legal marriage will probably not affect their daily life.

“We’ve had a pretty stable day-to-day life for a long time,” Eck said. “We’ve owned two houses together, we’ve done all the things that people do during the day, like get up, get The New York Times, the Boston Globe, get breakfast in the dining will pretty much be the same.”

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