The bride wore a strapless dress in shades of blue and white. The other bride wore a battered leather jacket, a shiny, pale pink tie and a snug gray beanie. Hendrix Scott and Jennifer McCluskey rode up to the second floor of the Dallas County Records Building on Main Street this morning to ask John Warren, the Dallas county clerk, for a marriage license. To their absolute non-surprise, they were denied.
"I've been with my wife for seven years," Scott, the would-be bride in the gray beanie, said, her arm around McCluskey. For two people who were just told they couldn't be legally married, they still looked pretty happy. "I was hoping for more people here today," Scott added. "I think people in Texas are scared to stand up for this."
The couple and about 15 others were part of a demonstration at the county clerk's office this morning in favor of legalizing gay marriage. It was organized by GetEQUAL TX and accompanied by a large contingent from OccupyNow, the Occupy Dallas splinter group.
"This is an issue of separate but equal," said 21-year-old Kooper Caraway of OccupyNow. The occupiers, several wearing bandanas over their faces, applauded enthusiastically as McCluskey and Scott kissed bashfully for a photo.
County clerk John Warren told us marriage protests on Valentine's Day are a yearly tradition, and one with a predictable conclusion; yesterday, Warren told the Dallas Voice he still wouldn't be issuing any same-sex marriage licenses, at least until the state law is changed. Although he also told the Voice that as a Baptist, he's religiously opposed to same-sex marriage, he'd have no problem issuing a license to a gay couple, if it were legal.
But according to GetEQUAL, it's the state law that's the problem. Back in 2005, in a move apparently designed to outlaw gay marriage good and proper, a constitutional amendment was added to the clause. It reads.
Article 1, Sec. 32. MARRIAGE. (a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. (b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.
GetEQUAL TX maintains that part B of the amendment accidentally bans marriage for everybody, gay or straight. Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a lawyer from Houston and a former Democratic candidate for attorney general, agreed; she was widely quoted in 2009, saying that "whoever vetted the language in B must have been asleep at the wheel." Attorney General Greg Abbott, who, if you recall, also doesn't want any gay people getting divorced in his state, thank you very much, has maintained that the law is constitutional and doesn't prevent straight marriage.
"The law does not say that two men or two women cannot be married," GetEQUAL TX member Daniel Cates told Warren pleasantly. "And we'll be back again and again monthly until we get a 'yes' out of you." Warren replied that until the law changed, his answer would always be the same.
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"He's a nice guy," Cates told us a moment later. "I bear him no ill will."
"We offer the services my office is required to by law," Warren told us. "But I understand their desire to keep their issue elevated and focused. Otherwise, you just disappear in a vapor." He said the protesters are always very polite. "Nobody's ever been crazy or had a riot."
"This may not happen in your lifetime," Warren told a group of demonstrators. "It may not happen in my lifetime. It may not even happen in your kids' lifetime." But, he added, public opinion was sure to change eventually.
"If you wait for popular opinion to sway in the direction of rights for minorities, you'll wait forever," one guy replied. He held a sign that read "I Don't Want Or Need Your Tolerance. I Want = Rights!" He tucked the sign under his arm and prepared to leave. "We just want the law to change."