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Anita Jane Bryant (born March 25, 1940) is an American singer and gay rights opponent. She became widely known for her strong views against homosexuality and for her prominent campaigning in 1977 to repeal a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida, that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In addition to the Florida campaign, she made public appearances in several other states in order to argue for the repeal of local anti-discrimination ordinances. As a result of her activism, she became a nationally known figure, sparking boycotts of products she advertised for.
Political Campaigning[edit | edit source]
In 1977, Dade County, Florida (now Miami-Dade County), passed an ordinance sponsored by Bryant's former good friend Ruth Shack, that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Bryant led a highly publicized campaign to repeal the ordinance as the leader of a coalition named Save Our Children. The campaign was based on conservative Christian beliefs regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality and the perceived threat of homosexual recruitment of children and child molestation.
She said that "What these people really want, hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that theirs is an acceptable alternate way of life. [...] I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before." The campaign began an organized opposition to gay rights that spread across the nation. Jerry Falwell went to Miami to help her.
Bryant made the following statements during the campaign: "As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children" and "If gays are granted rights, next we'll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail biters." She also added that "All America and all the world will hear what the people have said, and with God's continued help we will prevail in our fight to repeal similar laws throughout the nation." On June 7, 1977, Bryant's campaign led to a repeal of the anti-discrimination ordinance by a margin of 69 to 31 percent. A boycott was organized against the Florida Citrus Commission, who used Bryant in advertising.
The gay community retaliated against Bryant by organizing a boycott on orange juice. Gay bars all over North America took screwdrivers off their drink menus and replaced them with the "Anita Bryant", which was made with vodka and apple juice. Sales and proceeds went to gay civil rights activists to help fund their fight against Bryant and her campaign.
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