Anita Bryant: The Catalyst

The Christian Right

In the late 1970s, conservative political voices began to push against what they saw as an unraveling of America’s moral fiber, arising from liberal political gains in the 1960s. Eventually, this conservative push grew into the Moral Majority movement of the 1980s as the Christian Right increased in size and visibility. This movement argued that a literal translation of the Bible forbid gay sex and relationships. They also viewed gays and lesbians as a damaging influence on society and as a threat to children.  One spokesperson of the movement was Anita Bryant.

“Rally for Decency”

Anita Bryant campaigned against LGBT+ rights in Florida in an effort to repeal extensions of non-discrimination laws in Dade County, Florida.  From these campaigns, Bryant became a national figure and public speaker for the Christian Right. She spoke at rallies to oppose and prevent LGBT+ supportive legislation from being passed. In 1977, Bryant wrote “Dear friend: I don’t hate the homosexuals! But as a mother, I must protect my children from their evil influence.”  On October 7, 1977, Bryant came to the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum to speak at a “Right to Decency” rally in favor of a bill proposed by Representative Donald Boys in the Indiana General Assembly. The bill would have criminalized sodomy and was a component of Boys’ wider socially conservative political agenda. Despite no record of the text of her speech remaining, Bryant’s remarks were a major catalyst for the organization of the LGBT+ community in Indianapolis.

LGBT+ Activism

In the words of Executive Director of the Indiana Youth Group, Mary Byrne, who was at the Coliseum that night: “Anita Bryant was probably the best thing that happened to the gay community.” Hundreds of protestors stood outside in the rain at the first gay rights rally in Indianapolis. Groups including the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the forerunners of Pride Indy came together under banners protesting inequality and injustice as a reaction to Bryant’s speech and ideology. As a result of Bryant’s speeches, LGBT+ groups had a newly established voice and media recognition.

Images

Anita Bryant, <em>Billboard Magazine</em>, 1971.<br /><br /><br />

Anita Bryant, Billboard Magazine, 1971.


Former Miss Oklahoma beauty pageant winner and American singer, Anita Bryant became known as an outspoken opponent of gay rights. Her 1977 "Save Our Children" campaign to repeal a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation launched Anita into national recognition. Image courtesy of Billboard Magazine, Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons. | Source: Image from Billboard Magazine, January 16, 1971 p. 21., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.phpzcurid=18694185 | Creator: Billboard Magazine, 1971 View File Details Page

The "Save our Children" Campaign

The "Save our Children" Campaign

This fundraising card pictured here was used by Anita Bryant and the Save Our Children Campaign. Their strategies offered a basis for Moral Majority, who claimed to be saving America from immorality and communism in the 1980s. Image courtesy of Stonewall Library and Archives on wikipedia.org. | Source: Stonewall Library and Archives | Creator: By Save Our Children, Inc. / Protect America's Children - Provided by Stonewall Library & Archives, first uploaded to en.wikipedia.org, Save Our Children Fundraising card.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.phpzcurid=6504251 View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Ethan Chitty and Stephanie Schulze, “Anita Bryant: The Catalyst,” Discover Indiana, accessed May 24, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/86.

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