Déjà vu: Anita Bryant and Peter Madden

Fear-mongering, alarmism, sensationalism didn't work 40 years ago and it certainly won't work today. Too many people are out. Too many people have gay and lesbian friends, family members and work colleagues they love and respect. We have moved on. Obviously some people are still locked in the 1970's. 

In the late 70's and gay Americans were facing their biggest challenge. Anita Bryant, Chrisian, a former pitch woman (made famous by Florida oranges) and entertainer, launched her national Save Our Children campaign to overturn the new anti-discrimination laws which were being introduced across the US. This was backed by conservative evangelical and mainstream religious groups.

Just as Peter Madden is attempting to do today in Australia, Bryant's campaign claimed that homosexuals were predators and recruiters.

"If homosexuals were allowed their civil rights, then so would prostitutes, thieves, or anyone else," 
"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"
“As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children.”

Campaign linked to violence and suicides.
Two weeks after the successful overthrow of an anti-discrimination law in Dade County, a gardener who worked for the City of San Francisco named Robert Hillsborough was stabbed 15 times in his face and chest while his attackers chanted "Faggot" at him. Hillsborough's mother and San Francisco mayor George Moscone blamed Bryant's rhetoric for his death and 200,000 San Francisco residents joined a memorial demonstration for him. Mrs. Hillsborough said, "I didn't think much about Anita Bryant's campaign at first. Now that my son's murder has happened, I think about the Bryant campaign a lot. Anyone who wants to carry on this kind of thing must be sick. My son's blood is on her hands." 

Several suicides were connected to the campaign, including a Cuban gay activist in Miami named Ovidio "Herbie" Ramos, who was stunned at the vehemence against homosexuals. He and several other Cuban gay activists participated in a radio call-in show to hear people say homosexuals should be deported, forced into concentration camps, or executed. Ramos shot himself a few days later after telling a friend, "I didn't know they hated us so much". Another Cuban gay activist named Manolo Gomez was fired from his job and severely beaten, after which he decided to leave Miami. Bryant responded to violence saying, "It made me sad and shocked me that anyone would think I had anything to do with it, but my conscience is clear. I can't be responsible for how people react to what happened in Dade County. My stand was not taken out of homophobia, but of love for them". Peter Madden has protested the same thing many times, that he is not homophobic but loves homosexuals. Like the Rev Fred Nile.....he just can't say the word 'GAY'. 

The Good News

Just as the Save Our Children campaign was a motivational force for conservative Christians, it was also one for gay and lesbian politics. Fejes writes, "While the Stonewall riots of 1969 may have marked the beginning of the modern lesbian and gay movement, the campaigns of 1977 and 1978 marked the emergence of a national politically self-conscious lesbian and gay community". The birth of a political life for gays and lesbians gave opportunities for national networking as Anita Bryant and those who followed her acted as a virtual lightning rod, attracting a collective anger. Thirty years after the campaign, the Stonewall Library & Archives sponsored an exhibition of the events surrounding the Save Our Children campaign. According to the curator of the exhibit, Bryant is considered "the best thing to happen to the gay rights movement. She and her cohorts were so over the top that it just completely galvanized the gay rights movement"

1 comment:

  1. As a gay man who marches proudly every year, its interesting that a man can tell me what happens (ie drugs, alcohol, debauchery etc) in my parade, yet I havent seen it... He is certainly full of his own world, not one shared by the crowds that I see each year who are happy, accepting, non judgmental, and above all, full of LOVE. He on the other hand is a voice spewing hate. Interesting though, not many of those 12, 13 ,14 year old kids he mentions that are causing trouble actually have gay parents. But lets not attack them hey Peter? Lets blame the gays. After all, those kids would be at your church service if the parade wasnt on, now wouldnt they!! Yes Sir, an apology MIGHT just score you back into the realm of being seen as a Christian again!


Please ensure your comments are helpful and rational. There are enough angry and abusive posts on Peters Youtubes. If you tell Peter why it is so important to apologise in a honest but respectful way it will get a better response than getting down to the low level of name calling. Remember the enemy is ignorance.

If you do leave comments it would be helpful to state if you are gay, straight, friend, family member, minister or religious person