Before Jacksonville rightly called itself bold, before the city got rid of tolls, before the smells were removed from the air and sewage removed from the river, Jacksonville was a fairly typical Southern city.
The city resisted integrating its public schools until a federal court forced the issue.
And in 1959, the city sold two golf courses — Brentwood and Hyde Park — to private interests rather than be forced to desegregate them.
Brentwood eventually was abandoned as a golf course, then revived as a First Tee site to involve young minorities in golf.
Legalized segregation was both supported by law, custom and tradition in Jacksonville and throughout much of the South. But the city and the country have come a long way.
Now these ugly memories are being relived by the disturbing and unfortunate decision of local clerks of the court to stop holding wedding ceremonies rather than be forced to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies in courthouses.
They are not required to hold these weddings, only to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples under Florida law.
So Ronnie Fussell of Duval County and the clerks in Clay and Baker counties gave in and closed their wedding chapels.
Fussell explained that by closing the courthouse to the 2,000 couples per year who are married in the courthouse, he would not be discriminating. That’s the sort of twisted logic that was commonplace during the era of legalized segregation.
Never mind that Duval’s elaborate and expensive courthouse includes a special wedding chapel. Eliminating weddings devalues the courthouse.
Jacksonville has come a long way as an inclusive city. In fact, it is has been listed as one of the best cities in the nation for same-sex couples to raise children.
This is not a religious issue. Religions still are free to treat LGBT people according to their sincere beliefs. This is entirely about a civil ceremony at a public facility.
Fussell and the others should reopen their wedding chapels before this mistake further jeopardizes Jacksonville’s reputation. It is being covered nationally.
Can you imagine trying to rebrand Jacksonville now?
Fussell’s action takes us back in time to the bad old days that we thought were behind us.
It’s an embarrassment.