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Bryant, Anita (b. 1940)  
 
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Other companies Bryant worked for include Holiday Inn hotels, Kraft Foods, Singer (the manufacturer of sewing machines), Tupperware, and Coca Cola. In all, Bryant made 86 television commercials, appeared in hundreds of print ads, and spoke at conventions and fairs on behalf of the industry.

She also published a cookbook in 1975: Bless This Food: The Anita Bryant Family Cookbook, described as a "wondrous personal compendium of spiritual wisdom, down-to-earth everyday experiences, and heavenly recipes. Much more than a cookbook, this is the story of a family devoted to Christ."

Sponsor Message.

"Save Our Children, Inc."

When Ruth Shack, a friend of Bryant's and the wife of her booking agent, ran for a seat on the Dade County Commission in 1976, Bryant supported her with a radio commercial and a $1000 donation. However, the first action Shack took after her election was to introduce an ordinance that prohibited discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment on the basis of sexual orientation.

When Shack and her fellow commissioners refused to vote down the ordinance at her request, Bryant became very angry. Declaring that she feared for Shack's soul, and claiming that she had received a divine message ("God spoke to my heart"), Bryant vowed to use her celebrity to repeal the ordinance via referendum. However, she also struggled with the idea of a woman heading a movement, for she firmly adhered to scriptural tenets about a wife's submission to her husband. "Where are the men?" she repeatedly asked at anti-ordinance meetings.

Under the slogan "Save Our Children," Bryant perpetuated prejudices that associate homosexuality with child abuse: "The recruitment of our children is absolutely necessary for the survival and growth of homosexuality," she declared, "for since homosexuals cannot reproduce, they must recruit, must freshen their ranks" (her emphases).

A devastating campaign commercial contrasted Miami's Orange Bowl Parade and San Francisco's Freedom Day Parade: the former featured wholesome high school marching bands, the latter men in leather snapping whips, dykes on bikes, and drag queens in fabulous dresses. A voiceover intoned, "In San Francisco, when they take to the streets, it's a parade of homosexuals. Men hugging other men. Cavorting with little boys. Wearing dresses and makeup."

Absent scientific or legal evidence, Bryant turned to the Bible and focused on highly controversial passages (mostly Sodom and Gomorrah, the Holiness Code from Leviticus, and injunctions from the Pauline epistles) that have been widely perceived as condemning homosexual behavior. "If homosexuality were the normal way, God would have made Adam and Bruce," she summed up.

Since Bryant believed that American law should be aligned with the Word of God, her campaign became a "crusade" and enlisted the help of notable conservative preachers such as Jerry Falwell, who would found the evangelical right-wing organization Moral Majority two years later. Notoriously homophobic Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina praised her as a "fine Christian lady," and the Southern Baptist Convention commended Bryant for her "courageous stand against the evils inherent in homosexuality."

As Shack remembers: "[The ordinance] turned into a discussion of sexuality and bestiality and pedophilia, as opposed to discrimination in the workforce."

Not since the Scopes Monkey Trial and the ensuing debate about evolution in the 1920s had religious conservatives been thus aggressively engaged in politics. Even the backlash to Roe v. Wade (1973) and legalized abortion paled in comparison to the right-wing campaign against homosexual activity.

How did gay people react? By 1977, several years after the Stonewall Riots, the gay rights movement, though still in its infancy but before the AIDS catastrophe, could be credited with important achievements: several cities and counties had adopted gay rights measures; state laws were being legally challenged; and the American Psychiatric Association had removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

In Miami, gay men and lesbians formed the Coalition for Human Rights and the Miami Victory Campaign, which enlisted help from several out-of-state activists. A nationwide boycott or "gaycott" of Florida orange juice was organized, which received the support of many celebrities, including singers Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler, director John Waters, and actors Mary Tyler Moore and Jane Fonda. Gay bars in particular refused to stock Florida orange juice.

Bumper stickers proclaimed "A day without human rights is like a day without sunshine"; t-shirts read "Squeeze a Fruit for Anita"; the joke "We don't want your children, Anita. We want your husband" circulated; buttons were sold showing "Anita Bryant Sucks Oranges"; a disco song entitled "Hurricane Anita" was used as a fund-raising tool; a company in Coconut Grove marketed an Anita Bryant dartboard.

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