Cross-posted from Florida Netroots
Back in December of 1955, Rosa Parks challeged a city ordinance in Montgomery, Alabama that segregated transit passengers by race in refusing to give up her seat on a bus to make room for a white passenger. This single courageous act of civil disobedience started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a seminal event in the civil rights movement.
In 2006, Alabama became the first state to pass the "Rosa Parks Act", which gives people convicted under segregationist laws the option of having their criminal records expunged. The following year a similar bill passed in Tennessee, but in Florida the measure failed.
Why did it fail? A Florida Capital News article from June 2007 sheds some light on the subject:
According to state Rep. Terry Fields, a Jacksonville Democrat and sponsor of the House bill (HB 235), Rep. Charles Dean, an Inverness Republican, chair of the Safety and Security Council and candidate for the District 3 Senate seat, told him he would not support the bill.
"He told me he didn't believe in bills like that," Fields said. "I had several conversations with him but he wouldn't budge."
Charles Dean won that Senate seat. He's being challenged for it again by Suzan Franks.
Representative Terry Fields and Senator Anthony Hill are trying again this year with House Bill 655 and Senate Bill 520. The "Rosa Parks Act" seeks a pardon for anyone convicted under segregationist laws or ordinances and for restoration of their civil rights:
940.035 Pardons for convictions under segregationist laws
37 (1)(a) Upon application to the Parole Commission, the
38 Board of Executive Clemency should strongly consider granting a
39 full pardon to any person convicted of protesting or challenging
40 a state law or local government ordinance the purpose of which
41 was to maintain racial segregation of or racial discrimination
42 against individuals. If the convicted person is deceased, an
43 application may be filed by a person who can show legal
44 authority to act on behalf of the deceased person.
45 (b) The Parole Commission shall notify the state attorney
46 of the circuit where the violation occurred after the date the
47 application for a pardon is filed with the commission. The Board
48 of Executive Clemency should strongly consider granting a full
49 pardon unless the state attorney files an objection with the
50 commission on the grounds that the conviction did not result
51 from a violation of a law or local government ordinance the
52 purpose of which was to maintain racial segregation of or racial
53 discrimination against individuals.
54 (c) If the state attorney objects, a hearing shall be held
55 at the next scheduled meeting of the Board of Executive Clemency
56 after the objection is filed. The Parole Commission shall
57 provide notice of the hearing to all interested parties.
58 (2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the Board of Executive
59 Clemency is strongly encouraged to grant a pardon to a convicted
60 person who files a sworn affidavit with the board stating that
61 he or she was convicted of protesting or challenging a state law
62 or local government ordinance the purpose of which was to
63 maintain racial segregation of or racial discrimination against
64 individuals. If the information in the affidavit is later found
65 to be false, or if the violation of law by the applicant had no
66 direct relationship to or no purpose whatsoever in protesting or
67 challenging a state law or local government ordinance the
68 purpose of which was to maintain racial segregation of or racial
69 discrimination against individuals, the board may void the
71 (3) A person who has received a full pardon under this
72 section is not required to disclose the fact of the conviction
73 or any record or matter relating to the conviction.
Civil Rights activists are proud of their records of civil disobedience against segregationists laws and rightfully so. Their convictions under laws that have long been ruled unconstitutional merit an official pardon.