“This is about not being treated equal”

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE | A Dallas County sheriff’s deputy leads Beau Chandler to a patrol car after he was arrested at the Clerk’s Office on Thursday. Chandler and Mark Jiminez applied for a marriage license but were denied. View more photos and watch video at DallasVoice.com. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Gay Dallas couple Mark Jiminez, Beau Chandler arrested after being denied marriage license at Clerk’s Office in Independence Day protest

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Gay couple Mark “Major” Jiminez and Beau Chandler were arrested at the Dallas County Clerk’s Office on Thursday afternoon, July 5, after they were denied a marriage license and refused to leave.

The couple entered the County Records Building at about 3 p.m. with friends, TV crews and friendly police in tow.

“City police, county sheriffs and building security are all here,” Chandler said. “Nice to get their support.”

Although he was joking, most of the people the couple encountered in the building were supportive, even if they were unable to issue the license.

Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison officer for the Dallas Police Department, accompanied the group, even though she didn’t have direct jurisdiction since they were in a county building. Lt. Shelley Knight, LGBT liaison for the sheriff’s department, also followed the couple.

“I told them if they want to smoke, do it before going upstairs,” Martin said. “And have a full belly.”

Martin said the couple could be held overnight, depending upon how backed up the magistrate was.

“They’re the nicest couple,” Martin said of Chandler and Jiminez. “They’re the first guys after any protest to come up and thank the officers.”

It was unclear at press time what charge would be filed against the couple. Last week, a sheriff’s spokesman indicated the pair likely would be charged with criminal trespass, a class-B misdemeanor. The penalty for that is up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine.

Once in the license bureau on Thursday afternoon, Chandler and Jiminez filled out the paperwork. Chandler crossed out the word “bride” and wrote “not applicable.”

Before being called to the counter, the couple sat waiting next to a straight couple also applying for a license. Jiminez explained to them why they were there, and the couple wished them luck.

“God bless you,” Regina Johnson said to Jiminez and Chandler. “Good luck. You’re in our prayers.”

Clerk’s assistant Melinda Saavedra called Jiminez and Chandler and asked for their IDs. She checked to make sure one wasn’t there as a proxy.

“We pointed out subsection B that invalidates all marriages,” Chandler said. He was referring to the constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage in Texas. “She got teary-eyed when I said we love each other and want to get married.”

After being refused a license, the couple handcuffed themselves to each other and sat on the floor at the head of the line. Jiminez spoke on camera to TV news outlets explaining some of the more than 1,000 rights straight couples enjoy that are denied to gay and lesbian couples.

“This is about not being treated equal,” he said.

Jiminez said that the couple plans to get married on Sept. 13 and participate in Dallas’ gay Pride parade on Sept. 16.

He said their mothers and other family members would be attending their wedding and hoped they could stay to ride in a car in the parade with them.

The sign they plan to post on the car will read, “Just married, but not legal.”

Chandler said the idea for the protest came after the couple became engaged.

“He proposed the end of May,” Chandler said. “He made breakfast and I was eating pancakes and found a ring inside. He asked if I would be his husband.”

He said that the couple thought of going to another state to marry but decided there was no point if the marriage would just be void as soon as they got home.

“We spoke to our friend Daniel [Cates] with GetEQUAL, and he suggested we make a statement,” Chandler said. “And we decided it needed to be the day after Independence Day.”

At 4:30 p.m., the building was closed and everyone, including media, was instructed to leave.

The couple was not arrested until everyone else had left the office. When they came down the elevator, they were no longer handcuffed to each other but were handcuffed individually, each escorted by two sheriff’s deputies.

They were placed in separate squad cars and taken to Lew Sterrett for processing as their friends and supporters lined the sidewalk and applauded.

Martin Griffin came to the Records Building with his partner, Dillon Brown. He said they were doing this for every same-sex couple.

“We are all equal and should have the same rights,” Griffin said.

Activist Cd Kirven said, “This is the first time this has happened in Dallas. It’s historic.”

“You’re making history,” one friend shouted after the couple as the sheriff’s vehicles pulled away.

More photos and video below.

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