Gosh, I loathe Jury Duty. I’ve been called in Sacramento, Miami and Camden, and served on two juries. In Sacramento, it was a case of welfare fraud — we found her guilty — and in Camden it was a case of assault — we ended up a hung jury, which is not near as fun as it sounds. In Miami, I sat in the room for days and days and was never called. I loathe Jury Duty, but I know it’s my duty so …
Chuck Chapman of Jacksonville, Florida, also loathes Jury Duty, and was called to serve at the Duval County courthouse. But, rather than sit politely and wait to be called, Chapman took a stand for marriage equality.
To be clear, marriage equality is fully legal in Florida these days, but Duval County Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell did not like that ruling and felt it was best to simply stop performing any marriages at all because marrying same-sex couples makes him “uncomfortable.”
So Chuck Chapman stood his ground:
“If they feel uncomfortable performing the weddings in the courthouse, then as an openly gay man I feel uncomfortable being here [at the courthouse].It’s my town, and I happen to be a gay man. Don’t make it any more difficult than it has been. It’s my town, too. … I'm a citizen, I vote. I pay my taxes … My rights should be across the board just like anybody else has and anybody else wants and anybody else needs. It's my rights as a citizen in Duval County and the state of Florida."
And when his number was called, Chapman appeared before a judge, who asked:
“Does anyone in the jury selection pool have any prejudices or biases?”
And Chuck Chapman said:
“I just don't feel comfortable in the courthouse. If the clerk of the court doesn't feel comfortable performing same sex marriages, as an openly gay man, I don't know how I can feel comfortable in court."
“There were 1900 weddings performed in the courthouse in 2013. There's a chapel in that courthouse for weddings. There's money being lost on that courthouse because the clerks of the court do not feel comfortable marrying same-sex partners…. I hope this brings some awareness to the clerk of the courts. This is Duval County. Until this community gets in a position and embraces diversity, we'll never move forward."
The judge listened politely as Chapman spoke and his act of civil disobedience has a price: he could be held in contempt of court. Luckily, the judge listened to him, heard him, and excused him from service.
No word on what will happen in Doral County though; perhaps they’ll keep refusing to perform weddings and keep losing revenue, and be unable to pay Fussell’s salary and he’ll be terminated form the position, or down-sized to a file clerk in a dark basement somewhere.