Uncle Donald's Castro Street
SAVE OUR CHILDREN
Anita Bryant's 1977 Anti-Gay Campaign
for the survival and growth of homosexuality."
-Anita Bryant, 1977
ANITA BRYANT built her campaign on hatred and lies and succeeded in repealing a civil rights ordinance for gays in Miami's Dade County. In spite of her apparent victory, I believe Bryant's "SAVE OUR CHILDREN" campaign was the single most significant factor leading to the success of the gay lesbian struggle for equal rights.
Bryant was a runner-up in the1958 Miss America Contest, a Southern Baptist, a gospel and pop singer, and she was spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission. A gay rights ordinance was passed in Dade County, Florida, where she lived, in January 1977. She rose up as a born again Christian mother to launch a campaign for its repeal. She used stereotypes and untruths in support of her cause. She said gay people were wicked and godless and out to recruit the children of America. In the name of God she stirred up a backlash of hatred and anti-gay violence that spread throughout the land.
The San Francisco gay community worked hard and contributed generously to the fight against Bryant and several local politicians actually went to Miami to appeal to the people on behalf of gays everywhere. However, with support from conservatives, the Christian right, and bigots, Bryant was successful and the ordinance was repealed by a 2 to 1 margin on June 7, 1977. News of the vote spread rapidly through the San Francisco gay community, and although it didn't affect us directly, we felt a very real sense of defeat. We were very committed to the fight for gay rights and saw Miami as a major battle lost. As the evening progressed (SF is 3 hours earlier than Florida), Castro Street filled with angry people who felt the need to rally together and protest this injustice. We were well aware that we had become an organized community. We had a strong sense of unity because of our unique situation. We were beginning to understand the importance of speaking out and being heard. We were becoming activists. This was the first time that the media listened to what we had to say and passed it on to the public. We didn't win this battle, but at least they heard our voice, and we were loud! Now we were angry and we wanted the world to know we were angry.
We marched up Franklin for quite a few blocks and although no one seemed to know where we were going, we stuck together and followed the guys up front. Up hills and down hills, we plunged into residential areas on the edge of Nob Hill, an angry mob making a hell of a racket. By this time it must have been close to midnight. The cops seemed to have lost interest or couldn't keep up with us as we zigged and zagged through the narrow one-way streets. People were opening windows to see what the hell was going on at this hour of the night and couldn't believe that the fags were doing a midnight protest, marching right through their lives!
Fortunately someone up front knew where we were, and we finally dragged our tired bodies into Union Square in the heart of downtown. I, for one, was relieved to see buildings I recognized. The crowd more than filled the plaza at the center of the square and there stood Harvey Milk, up on the platform with a bull horn! I later found out that Harvey was at the front of the group for most of the march and led us on this exhausting route so that we would be too tired to be violent. We listened to Harvey for awhile, but it was like the preacher preaching to the choir. We disbanded and trudged back to the Castro. We had put on our first of many political demonstrations and it felt good. It probably had the greatest impact on our own community. Along with the rest of the Bryant experience, it showed us that we were ready, willing, and able to fight for our rights. We got in a bit of practice the following Sunday by protesting church involvement in politics. Without incident, a few hundred of us frightened the church goers in front of Saint Mary's, the Catholic Cathedral.
It wasn't long before another "Film at Eleven" major opportunity to be activists presented itself. John Briggs, a California State Senator from Orange County, was elated at the success of the Miami campaign. He was a little known opportunist politician who wanted to be governor, and he saw a way to get his name splattered all over the state. He drew up a ballot measure, Proposition 6, to make it illegal for gays and lesbians in California to be teachers! The difference between him and Anita? He didn't hate gays, but he didn't mind sacrificing them for his own political gain. We fought real hard and we trounced him good! (58% - 42%)
Soon after Anita Bryant's political success in Miami, she was fired by the Citrus Commission (because gays mounted a very effective and well publicized boycott of Florida citrus), her singing career fell apart, her husband left her, and she recently had to file for bankruptcy. As if that wasn't enough "payback", the gay rights ordinance was reinstated in Dade County in 1999!
The significant contribution by Anita Bryant to society is rather ironic. She ripped open the closet door that society had held shut for centuries. She put the "gay" issue on the front pages of every newspaper. The controversy became a hot item on TV and radio news, and was discussed at cocktail parties and at the dinner table. We had become "newsworthy" and the pace of our progress quickened. Today, it is no longer a question of "IF" we will achieve equality, but "When"! Thank You, Anita!
SOME ANITA BRYANT SITES ON THE WEB:
ON ANITA BRYANT - GROWING UP HATING ONESELF
A "from the heart" 1978 essay by Donald Cameron Scot on the reality of growing up gay and the effect of the lies about gays that Anita Bryant told to justify her campaign of hatred.
Published in "Homosexuals of high IQ Newsletter" May 1978 - this is an archive of newsletters documenting a small intellectual group of gays active in New Youk City in the late 1970's.
ANITA BRYANT, B. 1940, SINGER AND CRUSADER
By DUDLEY CLENDINEN © St. Petersburg Times
published November 28, 1999 This sounds like an obit. prepared in advance. It credits Bryant for leading the Fundamentalist Christians into politics.
EQUAL - NOT SPECIAL RIGHTS a 1997 article by By WILL LESTER Associated Press Writer. A 20 years later retrospective on Bryant's campaign and how it affected her life.
AN EARLY HISTORY OF GAY LIBERATION IN AMES IOWA
- includes the Pie in the Face incident
PERFECT ENEMIES: The Religious Right, the Gay Movement, and the Politics of the 90s - By John Gallagher and Chris Bull - Washington Post
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CONSENSUAL CRIMES - Peter Mc Williams 1996
This man has done an incredible job of answering those unanswered questions we all have. He debunks myths and stereotypes, the weapons of the bigots and bible thumpers, and he blows them out of the water, one after another. He does it with intelligence, common sense, logic, fact, and a great sense of humor. Do you know what Leviticus actually condemns? lots of things including "Anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death." (Leviticus 24:16) Do you know why the fundies often accuse: "Homosexuals recruit others"? Do you know why the US military is afraid of gays? HE KNOWS those answers and I bet he can convince you that he is right! I've heard many things that I believe are true but have never seen in print. For several of those, McWilliams has cleared my mind of any doubt! For instance, I've heard that the Pope gave tacit approval of fag-bashing! As absurd as that may sound, according to McWilliams, the Pope actually DID say: "People should not be surprised when a morally offensive lifestyle is physically attacked." Can you believe a religious leader would say such a thing? What can one say about ignorant, arrogant, politically active people who say things like, "AIDS is God's curse upon homosexuals"? Mc Williams says a lot!
If you believe that all this anti-gay rhetoric is evil and hatefully misquotes the bible, and if you would like the truth, I highly recommend this site.
The Infamous "Pie in the Face" Incident - Des Moines, Iowa, October 27, 1977
No, it wasn't a FRUIT pie!