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Meet the SA-tied Couples Suing Texas for Marriage Equality

Photo: Courtesy Photos, License: N/A

Courtesy Photos

Avid travelers Vic Holmes (left) and Mark Phariss(right) visiting Antartica in 2013

Photo: , License: N/A

Cleopatra De Leon (left) and her spouse Nicole Dimetman


When asked how they kept the relationship alive despite roughly 11 years apart, Phariss answered without reservation, “It was easy because we knew we didn’t want to be with anyone else. It didn’t even cross our minds that we wouldn’t last.”

Their perseverance paid off, as they plan to celebrate their 17th year together this August. But rather than solidifying their hard-won relationship with marriage, as many similarly committed couples do, Holmes and Phariss are once again playing a waiting game, this time to see if they’ll be allowed to wed legally in Texas. Why would they voluntarily embark on yet another challenge, knowing full well they’ll face an uphill battle in Texas, a state as red and as adverse to LGBT rights as they come?

Pharris has long been actively involved in LGBT rights groups and issues. He served as a governor for HRC (inviting late Democratic Texas Gov. Ann Richards to speak at a black-tie dinner in 1998) and fought on the frontlines of the initial battle to get an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance passed in San Antonio in 1997. When chatting with Phariss about the massive controversy and subsequent backlash following the recent passage of the NDO here in San Antonio this summer, he chuckled, “Imagine going back in time 16 years to get a non-discrimination rule passed.”

On the present matter, Phariss was more serious. “We want to get married because we love each other and we find it inequitable that we aren’t allowed to,” said Phariss, talking emphatically over the playful barking from their three pet Beagles. “A straight couple can meet at the bar on a Sunday night, go to a court clerk’s office on Monday morning, apply for a license and 72 hours later, they can get married.”

“Vic and I have been together almost 17 years and can’t do that—there’s something wrong there. That’s an injustice,” he concluded.

 

All For Him: Nicole and Cleo

After two years of dating, Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra De Leon’s relationship reached a defining moment. Both University of Texas—San Antonio graduates, Dimetman decided to leave SA to pursue graduate school at Syracuse University in upstate New York. The prospect of a long distance relationship didn’t appeal to the couple, and so De Leon packed up her belongings, quit her job and followed Dimetman out the door.

“Have you ever been to upstate New York?,” asked Dimetman, during a phone interview from the couple’s home, now located in Austin. “I loved the program, but in terms of weather and job opportunities, it’s not this huge, awesome metroplex. So it was a pretty intense commitment on Cleo’s part.”

On the phone with her partner, De Leon chimed in.

“Yeah, it really cemented our relationship,” she said.

A member of the Air Force, De Leon likely didn’t relish the move, having completed two years abroad on active duty, followed by another two at the former Kelly Air Force Base and then a three-year stint with the Texas Air National Guard at Lackland. But her devotion to Dimetman superseded the comforts of Texas living.

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