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social sciences

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Bryant, Anita (b. 1940)  
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Bryant then returned to her home town in Oklahoma, where the city honored her by naming a street after her. She is now in charge of the Anita Bryant Ministries International.

The website for Anita Bryant Ministries International contains a biography, apparently composed in 2006, that not only includes manifest lies about her crusade against homosexuality--recasting it as an attempt to prevent churches and private schools from being forced to hire known homosexuals--but also elides many details of her private life, including her bankruptcies. Not only is it riddled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations, but the biography also contains numerous misspellings and grammatical errors, unintentionally reminding the reader of Bryant's lack of education.

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It self-pityingly presents her as a victim: she is both "an entertainer who was willing to stand up to the vilest and most scurrilous kind of abuse for the sake of family, morality, simple decency, and the Word of God" and someone who was misunderstood and shunned by other Christians who maliciously judged her.

Tellingly, in the biography Bryant never acknowledges the damage she did to others or the suffering they experienced as a result of her crusade. (For example, at the height of her anti-gay campaign, a young man, Robert Hillsborough, was murdered in San Francisco by four gay bashers, who shouted, "This one's for Anita!") She is focused exclusively on the injustices she believes she has suffered as a result of her Christian beliefs.

Efforts by journalists or academics to contact her usually meet with no response.

In 1998, controversy returned to Bryant's former home turf when the Miami-Dade County Commission, on a 7-6 vote, amended its human rights ordinance and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. A repeal drive, "Take Back Miami-Dade," failed to gather enough signatures in 2000. When a vote was finally held in 2002, the law was affirmed with a 56% vote in favor. Bryant was not personally involved, but the memory of "Save Our Children" powerfully pervaded the political debate.

In 2008, a circuit court in Miami ruled the Bryant-inspired ban on adoption by homosexuals unconstitutional. After further litigation, in 2010 an appeals court agreed that the law was unconstitutional and the state agreed to no longer enforce it.

Bryant's glbtq Legacy

Bryant's influence on the gay (and straight) imagination is indisputable. Doric Wilson's The West Street Gang (1977), a satire set entirely in a gay bar, includes a character named Bnita Aryant, among others an allusion to Nazi ideology. Patricia Nell Warren's novel The Beauty Queen (1978) bases Jeannie Colter, a New York state politician running for governor on a homophobic agenda, on Bryant.

In Armistead Maupin's More Tales of the City (1980), the protagonist Michael Tolliver comes out to his parents when they praise Bryant's campaign: "That, more than anything, made it clear that my responsibility was to tell you the truth, that your own child is homosexual, and that I never needed saving from anything except the cruel and ignorant piety of people like Anita Bryant."

In strong language, the American punk band The Dead Kennedys takes aim at Bryant and Phyllis Schlafly (who was instrumental in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment) in their song "Moral Majority" (1982): "Blow it out your ass, Phyllis Schlafly / Ram it up your cunt, Anita / Cos God must be dead / If you're alive."

In Michael Moore's documentary on the automobile industry Roger & Me (1989), a cheerful Bryant preaches to the unemployed of Flint, Michigan: "Thank God for the sunshine and the fact that you're not starving to death."

Brian Christopher Williams' play Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins (2004) juxtaposes Bryant's anti-gay campaign and a teenager's coming out at the same time. Michael Yawney's 1,000 Homosexuals (2008) is a documentary/fantasy/comedy casting Bryant as a musical Joan of Arc battling an omnipotent gay mafia and surrounded by talking penises and wagging dildos.

Performance artist Elizabeth Whitney channels Bryant in a one-woman show, A Day without Sunshine (2008). In this portrayal, Bryant is presented as a religious whacko, but is nevertheless curiously sympathetic.

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