Dallas Couple Settles For Dismissal in Marriage Equality Sit-In
On November 26, half of the Dallas couple that staged a July sit-in for the right to marry had his first in-court appearance to answer to charges of criminal trespass. Beau Chandler agreed to do 40 hours of community service in exchange for having the charges dismissed. Supporters had lined up for a rally in front of Frank Crowley Criminal Courts Building to bolster the couple before they went inside to face charges.
"We did indeed have our first in-court appearance. Our attorneys had been instructed to tell the DA that we would settle for a dismissal or we would go to trial," said Chandler. "We both agree, as do our attorneys and supporters, that this is indeed a huge win for us."
On July 5, swept up in the national move toward marriage equality, Dallas couple Beau Chandler and Mark "Major" Jimenez, headed to the Dallas County Records Building, applied for a marriage license and when denied, handcuffed themselves together in the middle of the floor. When the building closed, they were arrested for criminal trespass.
At that time, Jiminez explained to a crew of local reporters about the 1,000 rights straight married couples enjoyed that they were being denied. The couple was arrested and charged with criminal trespass, a class-B misdemeanor that comes with a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine.
"The day after we celebrated our country's freedom, Mark and Beau stood with courage for their freedom to marry, only to be arrested. Shame on our government for putting them through this," said GetEQUAL Texas state co-coordinator Michael Diviesti. "Texans are standing up to demand that discrimination be removed from the books. It is up to our government to work for the people. We are outraged that this couple is facing 180 days in jail and more than double the normal fine for demanding their equal right to civil marriage."
Diviesti said arrests that stem from political sit-ins are usually handled as class-C misdemeanors with a maximum $250 fine.
After their first court appearance in August, Jiminez was arrested again when he returned to the Dallas County Records Building and handcuffed himself to the front of the line in protest of four same-sex couples denied marriage licenses. Chandler avoided arrest, so he could bail his partner out of jail.
On July 21, the men retained attorneys Dax Garvin and Kim Butler to lead their defense team, vowing to take the case to trial. Garvin is representing three people arrested for a similar action on Valentine's Day, while Butler specializes in same-sex families and criminal misdemeanors.
But on December 4, one of the couple’s attorneys, Chad West, met with the assistant district attorney and agreed to a dismissal and a waive of the $650 fine if Chandler completed 40 hours of community service.
"Our attorneys had been instructed to tell the District Attorney that we would settle for a dismissal, or we would go to trial," said Jiminez via email. "So the DA came back with 40 hours of community service and a $700 fees and Court costs. We said no fees or court costs. They came back and said the DA agreed to no fees or costs but that the case would be settled and off Beau’s record if he does 40 hours of community work which we do regularly anyway, and then it would all be over for him."
According to the Dallas Voice, Assistant District Attorney Jessica Trevizo, the prosecutor on Chandler’s case, said the case would be dismissed when the community service was completed.
Although Chandler was initially set to have his case heard at the same time as Jiminez’s, his two cases are still pending and he doesn’t know when his next court appearance will be. Part of the delay came from having his cases moved to another court, said Jiminez.
"Now, I got arrested twice for the same thing, but as of last week, neither the DA nor our attorneys or the bail bondsman can find out when my next court date is scheduled," Jiminez told EDGE, adding, "They seem to have lost me."
Despite the legal repercussions, the couple has vowed to continue their fight to become legally wed, and noted on their Facebook page that they had planned a September 13 wedding to coincide with Dallas Pride’s September 16 parade. They joked that the sign on their car would read, "Just Married, But Not Legal."
"I stand before each and every one of you and tell you that I would spend 181 days in jail as an unjust penalty for trying to marry the man I love, and as soon as I got out I would start the process over again. We will be married," Jiminez said after their arrest, to a crowd gathered at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center.
Chandler told the Dallas Voice: "We will continue to demand our marriage licenses until the answer is yes. We owe it to ourselves to do what our hearts tell us is right."