John Leo

After the first six years of efforts to get civic leaders interested in obeying the law, "playing favorites by color remains official policy in some of California's largest bureaucracies," says an article on FrontPageMag.com. Same thing in Seattle after Initiative 200 banned preferences in Washington state. The mayor of Seattle was not swayed. He prepared a fresh batch of preferences, and a councilman said, "I'm not sure I care if we're in compliance" with the law. Whatever. It's only a law.

A similar pattern of resistance greeted the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, a version of Prop 209 and I-200. The resisters, including a group with a telltale name, By Any Means Necessary, are fighting to keep the public from voting on the issue. At one point the board of state canvassers refused to put MCRI on the ballot, despite a court order to do so.

The current mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, came to the nation's attention by illegally marrying gay couples. Now he is promising another adventure in lawbreaking. In April, he and the entire city board of supervisors urged San Francisco law enforcement not to comply with criminal provisions of any new immigration bill. "If people think we were defiant on the gay marriage issue, they haven't seen defiance," he said.

Another wave of resistance may be forming in Massachusetts, this time to protect sex lessons in public schools, particularly lessons on homosexuality. So much material on sex was appearing in lower grades of schools that parents fought for, and got, a state law allowing a child to be excused when these lessons came up. But in a highly publicized case in Lexington involving a kindergarten boy and gay sexuality, the school system refused to allow the opt-out. Superintendent Paul Ash said, "We couldn't run a school if every parent who feels some topic is objectionable to them for moral or religious reasons decides their child should be removed."

The man who wrote the law, Brain Camenker of the conservative Article 8 Alliance, said the school system justified ignoring it by willfully misinterpreting the language used in the law.

Why is the new resistance occurring? One factor is that many of the people involved have a personal history of activism and see their current posts as opportunities to promote their causes. They often have romantic views of lawbreaking derived from the civil rights movement and the in-your-face activism of the 1960s.

Traditionally, officeholders are expected to resign if they cannot bring themselves to obey the law. The resisters don't feel that way. Often they see themselves as prophetic figures working against sluggish majorities to produce a better future. Save us from visionaries who think they are entitled to break the law.


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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