The news that Anita Bryant’s granddaughter will soon marry a woman no doubt brought a smile to the faces of people of a certain vintage. In the 1970s, Bryant positioned herself as America’s leading anti-gay rights activist. But to her chagrin, her gig as the mother of modern homophobia did not set her singing career ablaze. Instead, it went down the toilet. Bryant found herself something of a pariah, losing endorsements and gigs. She ended up divorced and bankrupt. And now, in the twilight of her life, she discovers the fruit of her loins is a lesbian. Hallelujah! Perhaps, there is a god. And that god is a karmic bitch.
Pop singer Anita Bryant began singing on fairgrounds at the age of six. In 1958, the 18-year-old placed as second runner-up in the Miss America Pageant. Over the years, she achieved eleven Top 100 US hits. Her biggest hit, ‘Paper Roses‘, reached Number 5 on the charts in 1960, the same year Bryant married. (Years later, LGBTIQ+ ally Marie Osmond enjoyed a Number 1 hit with the same song.)
In 1969, the Florida Citrus Commission employed Bryant as a spokesperson, gifting her nationwide media exposure.
But in 1977, Bryant began a morals campaign with a particular emphasis on the evil gays, always an easy target. Like Israel Folau almost half a century later, she insisted she didn’t hate gays.
“I don’t hate homosexuals. I love them enough to tell them the truth.”
Yeah. Yeah. We remember. There’s a guy with horns and a tail and a pitched fork who rules an underworld where we’ll all burn for eternity.
WTF do these people put in their orange juice?
Bryant also believed TVs wielded an immoral influence — not transvestites — televisions.
“That TV set in your home has the power to destroy your family. Your children are being taught to:
“Commit cold-blooded murder.
“Rape, steal, get drunk and sell drugs.
“Set fire to a school building.
“Run away from home.
“Use vulgar language.
“Become a prostitute.
“Sometimes, for the price of an ice cream cone, a child will pose naked for a porno film.”
What nonsense. This writer hasn’t done half of those things.
As the Canberra Times said at the time, “By the time people finish Anita’s letter, they are surely wondering what can be done to their children from being recruited by the gay schoolteacher prevent conspiracy, committing cold-blooded murder, raping, stealing, getting drunk, selling drugs, setting fire to a school building, running away from home, using vulgar language, becoming a prostitute and posing naked for the price of an ice-cream cone.”
And what, the Canberra Times asked, would Anita Bryant do to stop all this?
“Hit sinners on the head with her Bible? Immerse them in a cold stream until they either repent or drown? Turn them into pillars of salt?”
Plus ça change
Send me money, cried the cynical God-botherer.
“All I can do is turn to you. I must depend on your $10 tax-deductible gift of love — or perhaps even $15 or $25 or $100. May I hear from you immediately?”
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, wrote Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
“Bible thumpers,” said the Canberra Times, “First, they warn us about a terrible menace. Then, they urge us to send them money so they can protect us from it.”
The Mother of Modern Homophobia
In 1977, Dade County, Florida passed a historic gay rights ordinance. It banned employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Bryant was beside herself with sanctimonious indignation.
“Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they must recruit,” she cried.
The singer formed an organisation called Save Our Children to champion religious purity and protect children from what she described as anti-Christian values. Her virulent rhetoric gained her a national following among American conservatives — the people then branding themselves The Moral Majority under the leadership of Jerry Falwell Sr.
As the Canberra Times noted, before Bryant and Falwell, television bible thumpers were reduced to faith healing.
“Curing lumbago, fallen arches, acne and bleeding gums.”
Attacking gays gave them a whole new gig. Television evangelists felt reinvigorated and suddenly saw a new path to riches. Prosperity gospel became a thing as greedy preachers bashed gays and other sinners from their pulpits in order to separate gullible congregations from their money.
As the pioneering mother of modern homophobia, Bryant invented the dear old slippery slope still so beloved of fire and brimstone wankers today.
“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.”
Disclaimer: this writer has slept with a number of nailbiters, and also with a couple of Bernards, though neither seemed overly saintly.
Bryant initially succeeded in her campaign and Dade County repealed the ordinance. But the gay community fought back. Gays and their allies boycotted orange juice and gay bars nationwide stopped serving it — tougher than it seems in an era bereft of Red Bull.
During a television appearance, a gay activist threw a pie at Bryant. After quipping ‘At least it’s a fruit pie’, punning on ‘fruit’ as a slur against gay men, she prayed that God would forgive the activist and then burst into tears for the cameras.
Bryant became a figure of ridicule in the United States and worldwide and her career went into decline. Her 1980 divorce lost her substantial support among her fundamentalist supporters while more tolerant venues would not book her because of her homophobia.
During a podcast, she recorded this July, Sarah Green, Bryant’s 21-year-old granddaughter, recalled coming out to her grandmother.
Bryant rang to wish Sarah a happy birthday but then started raving about how someday Green would find a suitable husband.
“She would not stop talking about the right man coming along, and I just snapped.”
Sarah Green told her grandmother, “I hope that he doesn’t come along, because I’m gay, and I don’t want a man to come along.”
Sarah’s father said his mother appeared shocked.
“Instead of taking Sarah as she is, my mom has chosen to pray that Sarah will eventually conform to my mom’s idea of what God wants Sarah to be.”
Sarh said she found her grandmother impossible to argue with.
“It’s very hard to argue with someone who thinks that an integral part of your identity is just an evil delusion.
“She wants a relationship with a person who doesn’t exist because I’m not the person she wants me to be.”
Anita Bryant Today
The mother of modern homophobia now heads something called Anita Bryant Ministries International which appears to be just a desk in her husband’s Oklahoma City office.
Her website Homepage doesn’t open due to Flash issues while the empty News page begs visitors to “Please check back soon for more information.”
But who cares about the Home or News pages. The Contact page works and that’s where disciples will find details of where to send donations.
Plus ça change…
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