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Talking Strategy with Dallas Marriage Equality Sit-In Couple Mark Jiminez and Beau Chandler

by Jenny Block
Contributor
Friday Jul 20, 2012
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On July 5, Dallas couple Mark Jiminez and Beau Chandler decided they were tired of being prevented from formalizing their longtime relationship. So they walked into the Dallas County Clerk’s office and requested a marriage license. When they were denied, as they expected to be, they sat down, handcuffed themselves to one another, and refused to leave until they received a license.

In other words, they initiated their own marriage equality sit-in that has created a call for action in Dallas and across the nation. EDGE spoke with the men about why they were willing to go so far as to get arrested in support of their beliefs.

"It is time to take a stand," Jiminez said. "We are tired of being told ’no’ time and time again and just accepting that ’no’ and walking away. People from all over the country are talking about no longer taking ’no’ for an answer."

Getting arrested is a bold move. But it’s one that Jiminez said had to happen -- immediately. "Every time we made strides in a state and were finally ’allowed’ civil rights, groups immediately started trying to codify discrimination against us into their State Constitutions," Jiminez told EDGE. "We finally got tired of others telling us that we could not say ’I do.’"

After their arrest, Jiminez and Chandler began working with getEqual to organize and get the word out. Now, Marriage Equality USA and other groups have gotten onboard as well. But it’s not just organizations that are drawn to Jiminez and Chandler’s bold act, it’s also individuals.

They say they have received thousands of emails from all around the world thanking them, including from LGBT kids. "With very few exceptions, the response to us personally has been 100 percent supportive," said Jiminez.

Surprisingly, the two said they’re not concerned at all about their court date, noting that as long as change results, they are prepared to accept the consequences, including the possible six months in jail and/or up to a $2,000 fine and a minimum of $250 each in court costs.

"We have two great lawyers who understand that we just want to be able to get married to each other and have our marriage recognized by the state of Texas," said Chandler.

They were disappointed to discover they will be tried in separate courts at the same time on the same day, so they most likely will be unable be physically present to support one another. Regardless, they said they would be more than happy to do it all again.

"We explained [that day] that we were not going to leave until we had our marriage license. We still don’t have one. So we will continue getting back into that line until we finally get one," said Jiminez.


Sit-In Spurs Community Call to Action

The result of the sit-in has been a community call to action here in Dallas, as well as in cities across the nation. GetEqual also released a statement on planning a similar sit-in for marriage equality in other areas, and vowed to help people plan and execute the action, complete with finding other protestors, and sending out media advisories to local news outlets.

"Do what Mark and Beau did. Do what countless others have done before them. Get to your county marriage counter and request your marriage licenses. If you’re afraid of getting arrested, don’t be. Simply gathering all of the same-gender couples in your area that wish to be married and going at the same time to the county clerk’s office will create a renewed buzz about these actions," read a statement released by getEqual.

Their hope is that people will head to courthouses all over the U.S. on August 2, which is the men’s court date as well as "the 236 anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. You know, that document that promises all of us the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness," said Chandler.

It’s an impressive show of dedication that, as far as Jiminez and Chandler are concerned, was a long time coming. They said they simply want the ability to get married and enjoy the same rights and benefits extended to straight couples.

"There are over 1,300 [rights and benefits] that straight couples get simply by getting married... So this is a basic civil rights issue," said Chandler. "Civil rights for minorities should never be something left to a majority to vote on. We should just have them based on what our country was founded on."

Jiminez said that what upset them most throughout their act of civil disobedience was that each time a clerk would say, "Next," they would reply, "We’re next."

"But they ignored us all afternoon and moved the line around us," said Jiminez. All afternoon, the pair watched others enjoying the simple right of obtaining a marriage license that was being denied to them for no reason other than that they’re a same-sex couple. This is something the court could never have gotten away with were it based on race or religion. Yet, when it comes to sexual orientation, state sanctioned discrimination is de rigueur.

"They violated our civil rights, and they will be forced to deal with us now...and a whole bunch of other angry people as well," said Jiminez.

For more info on getEqual, Texans should e-mail info@getequaltx.org. Those in other states should e-mail info@getequal.org


Jenny Block is a Dallas based freelance writer and the author of "Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage" (Seal Press, June 2008). Block’s work has appeared in Cosmopolitan (Germany), USA Today, American Way, BeE, bRILLIANT, the Dallas Morning News, D, Pointe, and Virginia Living, as well as on huffingtonpost.com, yourtango.com, and ellegirl.com. You can also find her work in the books "It’s a Girl" (Seal Press, March 2006, ed. Andrea J. Buchanan) and "One Big Happy Family" (Riverhead Press, February 2009, Rebecca Walker, ed.).

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