July 5 protest may end in Dallas’ 1st-ever gay-rights arrests

Mark Jiminez, Beau Chandler to apply for marriage license to mark Independence Day, say they won’t leave Clerk’s Office until it’s issued

Mark-and-Beau

Mark Jiminez, left, and Beau Chandler

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Two local LGBT groups plan to mark Independence Day in distinctly different fashions — one with a sit-in and one with an ice cream social — but both events will spotlight the importance of the freedom to marry.

Mark Jiminez and Beau Chandler plan to get married on Sept. 13, but they’re not leaving anything until the last minute.

Since the Dallas County Clerk’s office is closed on July 4, they’ll stop by the county offices on Thursday, July 5, to apply for their marriage license.

“Unlike my co-workers who went to another state, we’re both Texans and we want to get married here,” Jiminez said.

While other same-sex couples have applied for marriage licenses in Dallas and been turned down in the past, Jiminez and Chandler don’t plan to leave the county clerk’s office until the license is issued.

Jiminez likened his protest to that of Rosa Parks.

“I’m just tired of this,” he said. “I’ve been paying taxes since I was 14. We’re just like everyone else. We just want to get married.”

Michael Diviesti, co-state lead organizer for the direct action group GetEQUAL Texas, said the couple will bring all the items necessary to get a marriage license issued and go through the same process everyone else does.

“They’ll either leave with a license or in handcuffs,” Diviesti said.

He said the Texas constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage actually makes all marriages illegal with wording that the state “may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

“Our amendment actually outlaws all marriages,” Diviesti said. “So the county clerk can either give them a license or stop issuing any licenses.”

On Valentine’s Day this year, same-sex couples around the state applied for licenses. In Dallas, after couples were turned down, they left the Dallas County Records Building peacefully. Diviesti accompanied a lesbian couple to the Travis County Clerk’s office. When they were denied a license and refused to leave, they were arrested. Diviesti said GetEQUAL has already raised money for bail for Jiminez and Chandler, if necessary, and has an attorney ready.

“We plan to do these things continuously for the next few years until we get marriage equality,” Diviesti said.

He said he expected to see equality in the next few years as a result of cases challenging California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act that are headed to the Supreme Court.

Diviesti said the sit-in at the County Records Building is open to anyone who would like to support Jiminez and Chandler or other couples who would like to apply for marriage licenses. He said sitting-in and/or being arrested was not necessary to participate.

Jiminez and Chandler plan to apply for their license at 3 p.m.

“We might not get anywhere,” Jiminez said. “But at least we tried.”

If they are taken into custody, this would be the first time anyone in Dallas has been arrested protesting for LGBT rights, although anti-gay protesters have been arrested at gay events, according to longtime local activists.

According to Dallas County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Raul Reyna, the pair will probably 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.

Reyna said county offices close at 4:30 p.m. Once the office closes, everyone must leave, and they will be arrested if they do not.

“It will be a simple deal,” Reyna said.

Three Denton County groups also will mark Independence Day with a freedom to marry theme but in a completely different style. Denton County Stonewall Democrats, Harvest Metropolitan Community Church and PFLAG Denton will hold an ice cream social on July 4 at 2 p.m. according to Stonewall President Joy Pierce.

She said the gathering at Harvest MCC begins early so people have time to get to other outings and fireworks displays. The event will include a Powerpoint presentation that begins with the 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling that made interracial marriage legal in all states and leads into marriage equality for the gay and lesbian community.

At its Thursday, June 28, meeting, Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs sent a proclamation to Denton Stonewall naming that day LGBT Pride Day in Denton, according to the group’s former president, John McClelland.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 29, 2012.

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