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social sciences

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Bryant, Anita (b. 1940)  
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Gus Van Sant's film Milk (2008) evokes Bryant as the epitome of the anti-gay bigotry of the 1970s. It uses archival news footage of her, including one of her most infamous pronouncements: "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."

References to Bryant as a synonym for bigotry and homophobia pervade popular culture generally, including on favorite gay television shows such as Will & Grace, Designing Women, and Golden Girls, among many others.

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When on election night in 1977, a jubilant Bryant told her supporters that homosexuals had "learned a lesson," she undoubtedly failed to realize the ironic truth of her statement. While she energized the religious right, which resulted in the foundation of the Christian Coalition and the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency, she also brought together the gay and lesbian community as never before.

As a minister observed at Houston's Gay Pride parade in 1978, "It took Anita Bryant to bring this many of our brothers and sisters out of their closets. And after tonight, they'll never return. God works in mysterious ways."

There is something undeniably sad about the wreckage that Anita Bryant made of her successful career and apparently happy life, and perhaps even more about her continuing refusal to recognize the damage she did to others. Despite her spectacular fall, however, she reveals too little self-knowledge to be seen as a tragic figure. Still, insofar as the implosion of her career is some evidence of the country's rejection of the raw bigotry that she came to personify, the Anita Bryant story is by no means entirely negative.

Nikolai Endres

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social sciences >> Overview:  Anti-discrimination Statutes and Ordinances

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social sciences >> Overview:  Atlanta

Since the Stonewall rebellion of 1969, queer presence in Atlanta has developed from an almost invisible enclave to one of the largest gay communities in the nation.

social sciences >> Overview:  Boycotts

Boycotts, the refusal to patronize companies or institutions, have in recent decades been organized by glbtq rights advocates to protest discriminatory practices and policies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Etiology

The earliest etiologies--or theories of causation--of homosexuality date from European antiquity, but the search for a universal etiology has intensified as homosexual behavior has come under the scrutiny of science.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay and Lesbian Bars

The centrality of gay and lesbian bars to glbtq culture has been reduced in recent years, but they continue to fulfill important functions; and, in many areas, they remain the most visible manifestation of glbtq presence.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay Rights Movement, U. S.

The U.S. gay rights movement has made significant progress toward achieving equality for glbtq Americans, and in the process has become more inclusive and diverse, but much remains to be done.

social sciences >> Overview:  Marches on Washington

Marches on Washington in support of the rights of glbtq people have been a significant part of the modern movement for equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Miami and Key West

The site of contentious battles for glbtq rights, Miami is home to a vibrant glbtq community; as is Key West, which has a long tradition of celebrating diversity.

social sciences >> Overview:  New Orleans

One of America's most colorful cities, New Orleans boasts a rich tradition for glbtq people and is both a popular travel destination for gay men and lesbians and the home of a diverse glbtq community.

social sciences >> Overview:  New Right

The New Right, which emerged during the last two decades of the twentieth century, combines evangelical Christian morality with a political agenda in opposition to glbtq equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Parades and Marches

Both parades and marches have served to render the glbtq community visible; whereas marches typically attempt to effect political change, parades and pride events affirm identity and community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon is home to a thriving and increasingly visible queer community that has provided leadership for Oregon glbtq activism since the 1960s.

social sciences >> Overview:  San Francisco

San Francisco has enjoyed a reputation as a "gay mecca" since World War II.

social sciences >> Overview:  Seattle

A northwest commercial and shipping hub, Seattle has long attracted glbtq people and is now home to a vibrant glbtq community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Southern Baptists

The Southern Baptists have become the most intolerant of the major American religious denominations, especially (but not exclusively) for their opposition to equal rights for gay men and lesbians.

social sciences >> Overview:  Stereotypes

Stereotypes usually include inaccurate and negative assumptions about groups, thus contributing to racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia.

social sciences >> Overview:  Teachers

Historically, glbtq teachers have faced all manner of social pressures, including open hostiliy and expectations that they hide their sexuality; now, however, teacher groups and individuals are working to improve the climate for glbtq teachers.

social sciences >> Gay Activists Alliance

An important organization of the early post-Stonewall era, the Gay Activists Alliance, which flourished from 1969 to 1974, strove to give gay men and lesbians visibility in American politics.

arts >> Kopay, David

The first American professional athlete to acknowledge his homosexuality publicly, former National Football League player David Kopay stands near the head of the short list of openly gay and lesbian elite athletes.

literature >> Maupin, Armistead

A sharp social critic, novelist Armistead Maupin places his gay characters within a large framework of humanity, creating a social history of San Francisco during the tumultuous decades of the 1970s and 1980s.

arts >> McKuen, Rod

The poems and songs of the amazingly prolific Rod McKuen express a bittersweet, aching tenderness that has endeared him to millions of fans.

social sciences >> Milk, Harvey

Harvey Milk, among the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States, was assassinated in San Francisco's City Hall, making him the American gay liberation movement's most visible martyr.

social sciences >> NAMBLA

The aim of NAMBLA's small but determined membership has been to attack social and legal proscriptions against sexual relations between adults and pubescent or teenage boys.

social sciences >> Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), an American organization of some 460 affiliated chapters and 80,000 members, works to support glbtq people and their loved ones.

arts >> Russell, Craig

One of the major female impersonators of the 1970s and 1980s, Craig Russell was also an accomplished actor.

arts >> Star, Darren

Responsible for such pop culture touchstones as Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, and Sex and the City, writer-director-producer Darren Star has had a prolific career in television.

arts >> Tyler, Robin

Charismatic performer and activist Robin Tyler has spent much of her life enmeshed in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights, from planning national marches to promoting same-sex marriage.

arts >> Van Sant, Gus

One of the most idiosyncratic talents to have emerged from the independent cinema over the past decade and a half, Gus Van Sant is not only matter-of-fact about his sexual orientation, but in his work he also represents homosexuality matter-of-factly.

literature >> Warren, Patricia Nell

Patricia Nell Warren is the author of significant novels about American gay culture that exemplify popular adult and young adult mainstream fiction.

arts >> Wilson, Doric

A pioneer in the development of contemporary gay theater, Doric Wilson was instrumental in Off-Off-Broadway theater in New York City from the early 1960s through the 1980s.


Anita Bryant Ministries International (2006):

Bernstein, Mary. "Identities and Politics: Toward a Historical Understanding of the Lesbian and Gay Movement." Social Science History 26.3 (2002): 531-81.

Bryant, Anita. The Anita Bryant Story: The Survival of Our Nation's Families and the Threat of Militant Homosexuality. Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1977.

_____. A New Day. Nashville: Broadman, 1992.

_____, and Bob Green. At Any Cost. Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1978.

Clendinen, Dudley, and Adam Nagourney. Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Fetner, Tina. "Working Anita Bryant: The Impact of Christian Anti-Gay Activism on Lesbian and Gay Movement Claims." Social Problems 48 (August 2001): 411-28.

Fejes, Fred. Gay Rights and Moral Panic: The Origins of America's Debate on Homosexuality. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Jahr, Cliff. "Anita Bryant's Startling Reversal." Ladies' Home Journal 97 (December 1980): 60-68.

Kelley, Ken. "Playboy Interview: Anita Bryant." Playboy (May 1978): 73-96, 232-50.

Loughery, John. The Other Side of Silence: Men's Lives and Gay Identities, A Twentieth-Century History. New York: Holt, 1998.

McCreery, Patrick. "Save Our Children/Let Us Marry: Gay Activists Appropriate the Rhetoric of Child Protectionism." Radical History Review 100 (Winter 2008): 186-207.

Rutledge, Leigh W. The Gay Decades, From Stonewall to the Present: The People and Events that Shaped Gay Lives. New York: Plume, 1992.

Samar, Vincent J., ed. The New York Times Twentieth Century in Review: The Gay Rights Movement. Andrew Sullivan, intro. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.

Tobin, Thomas C. "Bankruptcy, Ill Will Plague Bryant." St. Petersburg Times (April 28, 2002):


    Citation Information
    Author: Endres, Nikolai  
    Entry Title: Bryant, Anita  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2009  
    Date Last Updated April 15, 2011  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2009 glbtq, Inc.  


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