Marriage advocate twice arrested for trespassing in County Records Building seeks election to office that handles marriage licenses


Mark Jiminez

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Mark “Major” Jiminez recently announced he’s running for Dallas County Clerk, an office with which he’s had previous dealings.

When Jiminez and his partner, Beau Chandler, applied for a marriage license in 2012, they were arrested when they refused to leave the County Records Building without their certificate.

“I told them I’d be back,” Jiminez said.

The couple tried to get a marriage license three  times in 2012 and once earlier this year.

They were denied the license each time. Through that process, Chandler was arrested once and Jiminez twice. Both were sentenced to community service, which they successfully completed. Chandler lost his job as a result of the national publicity surrounding the arrest, but he and Jiminez became symbols of the fight for marriage equality in red states.

Although the couple were prevented from getting married, Jiminez vowed to continue the fight. Now, he wants to fight from within the system, and he’ll challenge incumbent John Warren for the nomination in the Democratic primary.

Jiminez explained that, if elected, he doesn’t plan to issue himself a marriage license. Instead, he believes that just working in an office that can’t issue him a license would bring awareness to marriage inequality in Texas.

Jiminez said he began thinking about running for the office after his last attempt to get a marriage license in July. He asked for a letter from the county clerk explaining why the office would not issue a license to a same-sex couple. He said he was promised the letter, and, after being told to pick it up, he was kept waiting five hours. He was then again threatened with arrest at the end of the day when the building closed. He waited downstairs, and, finally, the letter was handed to him.

He said that on its website, the county clerk’s office defines its mission as giving exceptional customer service.

“What we got wasn’t anything like good customer service,” he said. “Actually giving good customer service would be my goal as county clerk.”

Jiminez said he understood Warren’s office could not legally issue the license.

“But he should be out there fighting for our rights,” he said.

Jiminez said Warren instead told him he believed marriage was between a man and a woman.

Jiminez began collecting signatures this week to get his name on the ballot and named a campaign treasurer.

He said marriage equality is not the only thing that attracted him to running for the office. He has a master’s degree in education, and the county clerk works with the truancy court to enforce disposition of court orders.

After teaching in Broward County, Fla., Jiminez returned to Dallas in 2005. In Florida, he worked with the school district on a program to study literacy rates and find where education was failing. He said bullying was a major cause of truancy and dropouts.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez advised Jiminez to research the job and learn the policies and procedures of the department.

“Know the state constitution and how it applies to the position,” he said. “Know what you can and cannot do.”

He said his advice is the same to anyone running for office for the first time.

“Sit down and speak to leaders,” he said. “Get to know key players, clubs and organizations. If he wins the primary, the party will fall behind him.”

Resource Center spokesman Rafael McDonnell said when more people are involved in the political process, it gives voters more choices.

“People who have been front-line activists like Bill Nelson have been candidates,” he said. Nelson was an LGBT activist and the first openly gay man to run for Dallas City Council.

McDonnell also said candidates are more successful when they are more than one-issue candidates. He cited Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns who is popular in the LGBT community but also is a transportation expert and Harvey Milk who won as an openly gay candidate but focused on community quality of life and union issues.

He said he thought Jiminez might be competitive because this was a low-profile, down-ballot race.

Narvaez expects high voter turnout for the Democratic primary in March.

“It will be the first chance to vote for Wendy Davis,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 1, 2013.