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[URBAN NOTE] Does every country have a “San Francisco”?

France has just carried out its first gay marriage, in the southern French city of Montpellier
that–as we are told in Agence France-Presse’s article–is apparently the San Francisco of France.

International media have begun converging on the “French San Francisco” where the country’s first official gay wedding is due to take place Wednesday amid tight security and fears of protests after months of opposition that saw tens of thousands take to the streets.

Vincent Autin, 40, and Bruno Boileau, 30, will exchange vows at the city hall in the southern city of Montpellier at 1530 GMT in the presence of hundreds of guests, including the Socialist government’s spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.

Vallaud-Belkacem said she was attending the ceremony as a private citizen and not a state representative7, after the government backed away from sending officials fearing it would be accused of politicising the event.

[. . .]

Opponents have vowed to protest at the marriage in Montpellier, known as the “French San Francisco” for its gay-friendly reputation, and authorities have called in up to 100 police, with another 80 in reserve, to provide security.

“It is an exceptional event and we want everything to go as smoothly as possible,” said Frederic Loiseau of the local prefect’s office.

San Francisco is the origin of the trope, used in reference to cities of importance–not necessarily in the first tier of a country’s urban hierarchy, maybe even not the second, but a regional centre nonetheless–with a tradition of special liberalism. I’ve heard Cologne (German Köln) described as Germany’s San Francisco–see JD Van Zyl’s 2010 Pink News article and on the talk page for Wikitravel’s profile of the city.

Does this work for every country? I can’t think of Canada having a San Francisco-type city–Toronto and Montréal and Vancouver are too large. Can the trope work only in countries of a certain size, which have the population base necessary for a diversified urban hierarchy that provides relatively small groups with convenient potential niches?

Written by Randy McDonald

May 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm

One Response

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  1. I can’t think of Canada having a San Francisco-type city–Toronto and Montréal and Vancouver are too large.

    City size shouldn’t be an issue, after all San Francisco is certainly large.



    May 30, 2013 at 2:40 am

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