Sour Orange Juice & Fruit Pies

*Note:  Once you start reading this, you’ll realize it was originally posted in October 2012.*

I always try to find a silver lining in every situation.  While I’m a realist, I will sometimes sugar coat things for some people who can’t handle the truth.

I know that people don’t have to agree with me about music, movies, food, politics, marriage equality, and the list goes on.  And, that is what makes America a wonderful country.  We have the freedom to choose what we believe and to educate ourselves about things that we don’t understand.  It’s called living.

As educated as I think I am, I don’t think I will ever understand how some in society can harm gay people with fists, baseball bats, or knives, and beat them down with hate and words.

Maybe one day, I’ll have a conversation with failed presidential and senatorial wannabe Rick Santorum.  And, then after our talk, I would like to ask him if I really pose that much of a threat to traditional marriage, the future of this country, and his relationship with God.

Another person that I would love to sit down and have a heart to heart with is former beauty queen, orange juice spokeswoman, and outspoken homophobe Anita Bryant.

Some people may remember her for winning the Miss Oklahoma crown in 1958 and becoming the second runner-up to Miss America at the age of 19.  Some remember her for the 1960, #5 pop hit, “Paper Roses”, that would become a hit for Marie Osmond in 1973.

But, most people recognize the beautiful woman from her orange juice commercials for the Florida Citrus Commission that hired her in 1969.

Anita Bryant is a religious woman and she used her celebrity to talk about God.  And, I’m perfectly okay with that.  However, even as a 12-year-old back in 1977, what I remember most about the woman is the uproar across America she caused over her campaign against “homosexuals”.

35 years ago,”gay rights” was not part of America’s every day language.  Gay people were still on the “fringe” of society.  Being equal was not even a consideration, but only something in some old document that our forefathers signed in the late 1700s.

Even in 1977, gay people were police officers, florists, waiters, and teachers.  Basically, they were just like everyone else.  But, that was too much to handle for Anita Bryant.  When an ordinance was passed in Dade County, Florida, that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Bryant led the charge to overturn that.

Bryant stated, “what these people really want, hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that theirs is an acceptable alternate way of life. […] I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before.”

She established a group called “Save Our Children”.  “As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children”.  Bryant said that recruitment would lead to child molestation.  Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell headed down to Miami to lend his support for cause.

Bryant spent a lot of time and energy in demonizing gay people with comments like, “”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.”

Spreading fear against the gays worked.  In the largest special election in Dade County history, 69% voted to overturn the ordinance.

That stunning defeat only ignited gay rights activists.  Hundreds and then thousands of protesters started turning up at events that featured Bryant.   A week after the special election, around 6,000 people marched through downtown Houston as Bryant arrived at a banquet.

I am a firm believer that every American should have the right to peacefully protest something they are against.  Do I think (or did I think) that Anita Bryant was a modern day Adolf Hitler.  Hell, to the no.  She was just a hater that had a forum to spread her distorted view of life that didn’t mirror her life.

Celebrities like Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Mary Tyler Moore, John Waters, and Carroll O’Connor (“Archie Bunker”!) all spoke out against this agenda that Bryant was pushing and boycotted Florida orange juice.  Gay bars stopped serving screwdrivers and added the “Anita Bryant”, which was vodka and apple juice.  Proceeds from the drink went toward the fight against Bryant.

Bryant didn’t back down and neither did those fighting her hateful message.  The protests against her reached a climax in Des Moines, Iowa, 35 years ago today on October 14, 1977.  While appearing on television, a Minneapolis gay rights activist “pied” Bryant!

Right or wrong, that stunt raised the profile of the fight even higher.  As much as I detest the message Bryant was sending, her response “in the face” of being publicly humiliated was witty, but derogatory.  Bryant quipped before breaking down in tears, “at least it was a fruit pie.”  As you may or may not know, gay men were/are referred to as “fruit”.

The good news for Bryant is that her campaign ignited the Briggs Initiative in California in 1978 where, if passed, it would ban gays or lesbians and possible anyone that supported gay rights from teaching in California public schools.  The late, great Harvey Milk, President Jimmy Carter, former President Gerald Ford, and former Governor and future President Ronald Reagan were all against it.

Luckily, California voters said, “no way”.  That measure was defeated by a margin of 58-42%.

In 1979, after losing money because of Bryant’s political crusade against gays, the Florida Citrus Commission fired Bryant.  Financial troubles followed and her 2o-year marriage crumbled, and the Christian Right criticized Bryant for wanting a divorce because it would lead to “the deterioration of the family”, which Bryant spoke about heavily in her Christian ministries.  They saw her as a hypocrite.

Bob Green, Bryant’s late husband who died this past January, said this in 2007, “Blame gay people? I do. Their stated goal was to put her out of business and destroy her career. And that’s what they did. It’s unfair.”

Sadly, I find that very hypocritical.  It was okay for him and his wife to go around spewing lies and hate about how evil gay people were and Bryant worked to try and get the Briggs Initiative passed in California.  And, then he had the gall to paint gays as villains?

It’s 2012 now and I’d love to sit down with Bryant over mimosas, screwdrivers, or just orange juice, to see how she really feels today.

Robert Green, Jr. earlier this year said, “I think she is certainly more willing now to live and let live, I guess.  She’s about 70, and she’s still amazingly energetic, and she would be putting a lot more energy into fighting gay rights if she still felt as strongly.”

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One response to this post.

  1. […] If you want to read more about those idiots (Bryant & Briggs), here’s my blog from last October about their 1970s hatred:  https://anthonypeoples.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/sour-orange-juice-fruit-pies/ […]

    Reply

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