Parks stood up against a powerful government. The mayor is the powerful government. He could have searched for a way to challenge state marriage law without violating it. But this stunt curried more favor.
When Rosa Parks defied the law, her fate and the outcome of her cause were uncertain. In San Francisco, the issue of gay rights has been settled in every area but marriage. As Jesse Jackson noted, gays always could vote and enjoyed other rights. The only question left is whether same-sex marriage can be called marriage -- and there are plenty of gay people who don't care about the outcome.
If there's a group that has to work up courage to voice its beliefs in this town, it's religious fundamentalists. Ask the Rev. Eugene Lumpkin, whom then-Mayor Frank Jordan fired from the Human Rights Commission in 1993 because the reverend said he believed, as the Bible told him, that "the homosexual lifestyle is an abomination against God."
It didn't matter that no one could point to any discriminatory act on Lumpkin's part. What he thought was his crime.
As for the self-congratulatory term "civil disobedience" -- well, the civil part is missing. Hello. It can't be civil disobedience when there is no civil penalty and there is a government sponsor.
But the Special City has long held a cheap view of civil disobedience. Remember last year's anti-war demonstrators. They deliberately clogged city streets and blocked access to government buildings under the mantle of "civil disobedience" -- only to react indignantly when they were arrested. (No worries. This is San Francisco. Former District Attorney Terence Hallinan dropped charges on nearly all of the 2,300 protesters who were arrested.) Only in San Francisco does civil disobedience mean never having to say, "Guilty, your honor."