The day Billy M.K. Stallings ’10 proposed to Paul G. Nauert ’09, a large rainbow stretched across the Texas sky. The couple had driven up to Austin from Billy’s home in San Antonio, and they sat on the lawn in front of the capitol building, its pink granite glowing in the late afternoon sun.
“Paul Gregory Nauert,” Stallings began—and a nervous speech about commitment and gratitude spilled out to his boyfriend of the last four months.
“I knew at that moment,” Nauert recalls, “as bats were flying overhead and the stars were coming out, and then he said, ‘Will you marry me?’”
With the ring on Nauert’s finger, the newly engaged couple kissed as they sat on the lawn in front of the Texas capitol.
“Hey!” they heard suddenly. The two looked up at a group of men around their age. Austin was a more liberal part of Texas than most, but the two began to worry. They hadn’t encountered any homophobia until now in their time together—was their love going to be challenged the very night they got engaged? One of the men standing above them spoke.
“We were just going to play Ultimate Frisbee,” he said. “Would you like to join us?”
HERE COMES THE GROOM
The couple plans to marry in Memorial Church on May 28, 2010, the day after Stallings’ graduation.
“We had heard rumors about a twenty year wait list, stories about people getting married somewhere else but renewing their vows in Mem Church,” he says. Nevertheless, the couple was able to call the chaplain and set a date right away.
Stallings says his father is a reverend in the Progressive Catholic Church and will officiate the ceremony. Many of the couple’s friends have also offered their talent and support.
“I didn’t suspect that the wedding would bring out so much generosity,” Stallings says. Friends have offered to photograph and sing at the wedding, and the couple feels that the support is not unidirectional.
“A wedding is a commitment to the community,” Nauert explains. “The same-sex element enriches it with courage.”
Because they’re both from states with constitutional bans against gay marriage—Stallings hails from Texas and Nauert from Missouri—Massachusetts is one of the five states in which they can legally tie the knot. According to Sexton Richard D. Campbell, about 30 same-sex ceremonies have been performed in Memorial Church since gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004.
Getting married in the state where they went to college—and on the campus itself—has a special significance to the couple.
“In falling in love with Billy, I fell in love with Harvard in a way I never could have imagined,” Nauert says. “Now there’s an archaeology of emotion that Harvard has for us.”
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