Couples have 1st court hearing while supporters stage sit-in, march for marriage equality
Four couples applied for marriage licenses in Dallas on Aug. 2 and after they were denied, one person was arrested for criminal trespass.
Supporters of Mark “Major” Jiminez and Beau Chandler marched from the County Records Building to the Crowley Courts building at 7 a.m. before the first hearings for the couple charged with criminal trespass in a July 5 arrest.
After the hearings, more than 20 supporters returned to the Dallas County Records Building where four couples including Jiminez and Chandler applied for licenses. Each couple was told, “I cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”
Mackenzie Lechtenberg said she applied for a license with Elizabeth Clinton to show support for equality. She said she is straight and engaged to a man.
“I feel horrible that the people I love are denied rights just because they’re a different sexual orientation than I am,” she said.
Julie Van Zandt is a lesbian who also tried to get married.
“It’s ridiculous for people to tell me who I can love,” Van Zandt said. “It’s stupid we have to do this in 2012.”
After each of the couples was denied, they sat in the line but were told by building security to move behind the entry.
“They put us at the back of the bus,” Jiminez said. “Out on the muffler.”
While the rest of the group sat behind the line, Jiminez handcuffed himself to the pole at the front of the line.
He could have been arrested for blocking a passage, but Dallas police LGBT liaison Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin said that as long as people could get through, he wouldn’t be arrested for that. Instead, deputies waited until 4:30 p.m. when the building closed and again arrested Jiminez for criminal trespass.
Earlier in the day, Jiminez and Chandler made their first court appearances for the July 5 arrest. Neither was asked to enter a plea. Their cases are assigned to separate courts but they will probably be moved to the same court but with separate trial dates. Chandler’s next court date is Sept. 26 and Jiminez’s is Aug. 23.
Attorney Dax Garvin called this first appearance a cattle call. He said this was mostly procedural so the judge would know attorneys have been retained and to set a date for the defendants to enter a plea and the district attorney to offer any plea deals.
Attorneys and the couple agreed that they would both plead not guilty.
Garvin is an Austin attorney who is also defending three people charged during a similar protest at the Travis County courthouse on Valentine’s Day.
Kim Butler is a Fort Worth attorney who deals with LGBT family issues with a specialty in criminal misdemeanor cases.
Jiminez and Chandler waited outside the courtrooms wearing white ribbons as their attorneys spoke to the judges in the cases. The ribbons are part of the white knot campaign.
“We should be able to tie the knot,” Chandler said.
After coming out of the courtroom, Garvin said the actual charges had still not been filed.
As news crews interviewed the couple in the corridor, support among other people waiting for other cases grew.
“My brother is trying to marry his partner and having trouble,” said Gloria Parr, a woman carrying her baby.
She hugged the couple and told them that her brother and his partner had been together for years. They live in Waco.
As Chandler and Jiminez walked toward the escalator together holding hands, she said, “That’s so sweet.”
Others voiced support as the couple left the court and expressed shock that they faced up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
While the couple was in court, protesters lined Riverfront Boulevard in front of the Crowley Courts building holding marriage equality signs.
Keith Campbell traveled from Philadelphia for the protest.
“In my opinion, 180 days is an unjust sentence for civil disobedience,” Campbell said.
Dusty Mathews came from Odessa to support the couple. He said he was involved in a marriage equality rally in his hometown last year and also wanted to show support.
A Boy Scout in full uniform waved a Pride flag in front of the Crowley Courts building.
Clinton McBride said he was an Eagle Scout from the Circle 10 Council in northeast Texas and Oklahoma. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 2009 and said he was not gay, just protesting. He said he wasn’t particularly concerned if the Boy Scouts decide to throw him out.
“If they want to do that, it’s their choice,” he said.
Boy Scouts Spokesman Deron Smith said the organization doesn’t have a policy or opinion on gay marriage so any member who appears at a rally would be expressing a personal opinion.
He said the Scouts have a policy about political rallies for wearing the uniform for a presentation of colors, not partaking in the rally. Since the
Scout was an employee at a camp, Smith said it would become an employee issue that could be taken up with a local branch for discussion and possible discipline.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 3, 2012.