It's funny that, in a city that prides itself on its nonconformity, so many people make the exact same argument exactly the same way. To wit, after I write that Mayor Gavin Newsom was wrong to flout state law by authorizing same-sex marriages, a legion of readers write comparing gay and lesbian newlyweds with civil rights legend Rosa Parks. To say that Newsom should have more respect for the law, they argue, is like saying Rosa Parks should not have engaged in her landmark act of "civil disobedience."
I think the term "delusions of grandeur" fits here.
In 1955, Parks was a lone black woman on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, who after a hard day's work courageously refused a driver's edict to give up her seat to a white man. "I did not get on the bus to get arrested," she later said. "I got on the bus to go home."
For that, Parks was arrested. She was fingerprinted and jailed for two hours until a $100 bond was posted. Parks then was convicted and ordered to pay a fine, which she refused to pay so that she could challenge the segregation law. Ultimately, her resistance led to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the segregation law.
Parks was a pioneer in a nascent civil rights movement that demanded great personal courage. Many of her contemporaries paid for their beliefs with their lives. Parks' family endured threats. The home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who led the Parks-inspired black boycott of Montgomery's bus system, was bombed while King's wife and children were inside. King's price to achieve his dream was his life.
How can anyone compare the Parks experience with that of San Francisco's same-sex newlyweds? They don't face arrest. They won't be jailed. They won't be fined. City Hall is sponsoring the ceremonies. Why, the City Hall cafe sold splits of Champagne so there would be bubbly at last weekend's weddings. Civil disobedience? Hardly.
Rosa Parks stood firm in hostile territory, the segregation-era South. Under Jim Crow, blacks had trouble registering to vote, could not sit at lunch counters, and had to drink from separate water fountains, use different bathrooms and send their precious children to substandard segregated schools. Segregation was a system that subjected blacks to relentless humiliation.
San Francisco is gay-centric. Jewelers and liquor stores offered discounts to gay and lesbian couples about to take their vows. The city bureaucracy is so gay savvy that it has adopted the acronym LGBTQQ for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning youth. Not only has the Special City registered domestic partners for more than a decade, but City Hall will pay for your sex change -- if you work for the city or are the registered partner of a city staffer.