Anita Bryant is an American singer who made a series of television commercials for Florida orange juice. She is most remembered today for her vehement opposition to anti-discrimination ordinances.
A member of the Southern Baptist church, she is remembered for campaigning in the 1970s to repeal a local ordinance in Miami, Florida that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In 1977, Florida’s Dade County (now Miami-Dade County) passed a human-rights ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In response to this, Bryant led a highly publicized campaign to repeal the ordinance. The campaign was waged based on “Christian beliefs regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality and the perceived threat of “homosexual recruitment” of children and child molestation.”
Indeed, the concerns over homosexual recruitment of children inspired the name of Bryant’s political organization, Save Our Children. Among Bryant’s assertions during the campaign were “As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children. On June 7, 1977, Bryant’s campaign led to a repeal of the anti-discrimination ordinance by a margin of 69 to 31 percent.
The following day, Bryant stated, “In victory, we shall not be vindictive. We shall continue to seek help and change for homosexuals, whose sick and sad values belie the word ‘gay’ which they pathetically use to cover their unhappy lives.”
In the aftermath, legislation was passed outlawing adoption by gays and lesbians in the state of Florida and Bryant led several more campaigns around the country to repeal local anti-discrimination ordinances.
The ordinance was defeated by electoral repeal in early June of 1977, but the spirit and cooperation among gay groups and activist remained undeterred. The Coalition formed a sub-committee that planned and organized a protest celebration for National Gay Pride Day on June 28, 1977 to commemorate the Stonewall Riots. Several hundred people marched through Coconut Grove carrying signs and shouting slogans, ending in a street party. Trying to muster pride in the face of defeat, Gay Pride in South Florida was born.
The birth of Pride in South Florida had to do with the political process that was unfolding. In 1978 activists collected names to put the gay rights ordinance back on the ballot, the first time in U.S. history that gays & lesbians used the political system to place a pro-gay initiative on an electoral ballot. The referendum was again defeated, but the 1978 Pride Parade and Rally grew to 1500. The march occurred annually in Miami and continued to grow in size and scope.
Dade County, in 1998, repudiated Bryant’s successful campaign of 20 years earlier, and re-authorized an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The statute forbidding adoptions by gay persons in Florida, however, remains law.
Though early marches were held by and in Dade County, the Broward County Coalition for Human Rights was always an active participate. In 1980, the subcommittee of the Dade County Coalition that planned and organized the past Pride Parades, lead by Marty Rubin, filed for incorporation as a separate group to represent both Dade and Broward counties. The South Florida Gay & Lesbian Pride Committee was created and organized the annual Pride Parade. In 1980 a rally in downtown Miami’s Centennial Park was added to the end of the parade.
In 1982, the committee caused controversy by abandoning the Parade in favor of an indoor festival to encourage participation by closeted gays and lesbians not willing to be seen in public. The 1982 festival, held at the Hollywood Sportatorium, featured booths for businesses and organizations, and brought together hundreds of people that would otherwise not have participated in a public parade or rally. In 1984, the Parade was brought back and Pride was expanded to a full week of events. The indoor festival was moved to the Coconut Grove Exhibition Center and grew to over 5000 by 1985.
In 1991, under pressure from bisexual and transgender activists, the committee adopted the name Pride South Florida. Pridefest stayed at the Coconut Grove Exhibition Center, but the Parade and Rally was moved to Ft. Lauderdale for the first time. Pride Picnics were held with the New Name in Dade and Palm Beach Counties.
Pridefest now had over 130 exhibitors, and in 1992 moved to the Broward County Convention Center where it could all fit indoors, out of the heat and June downpours. It remained there until 1995 when rising costs forced it back to the War Memorial Auditorium and tents in Holiday Park.
Rain and heat were a continuing problem for Pride in June. The rainy season frequently canceled the Parade, and put a damper on Pridefest, forcing the thousands of Pride revelers to seek shelter in the Auditorium and the Tents. In 1998, Pride South Florida made the controversial decision to split Pride and move Pridefest from June to February, to capture the winter tourists and the better weather. Pridefest ’98, or Winterfest as it was called, was moved to Mills Pond Park and drew over 11,000 people.
After a heated town meeting in 2000, Pride South Florida decided to move the Parade and associated Pride festivities to February. In the winter, Pridefest attracts thousands of visitors from around the country and hundreds of exhibitors, becoming the largest Pride Festival in Florida.
Pride in South Florida started as a protest and has grown as the political strength of the LGBT community grew. From the early activist marching along 21st Street Beach in 1972, to the hundreds marching in protest of the Save Our Children campaign in 1977, South Florida’s Pride celebrations have been rooted in Protest.
In the 70’s South Florida activists made national history in their fight against Anita Bryant and her crusade. Their efforts inspired and galvanized gays and lesbians across the country and prompted a national boycott of the orange juice industry. In the 80’s, AIDS challenged Pride to give visibility to a new issue. Pride assumed a responsibility to remind the city and the media of the lives being lost to AIDS.
In the 1990’s AIDS phobia fueled a growing fervor of religious extremism. “Ex-Gay” ministries claimed that Gays can change their sexual orientation through Jesus, in a controversial “Truth in Love” campaign. In 1998, more than 3000 South Floridians rallied to protest Reverend D. James Kennedy of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and his “hate campaign guised as Christian love.”
Currently, the State of Florida still provides challenges. From the “Defense of Marriage Act” debate to the fight for the right of Gays to adopt children, Pride is an opportunity to take a stand against oppression, and celebrate the strength and resolve of the LGBT community. In Pride, both celebration and protest are alive and evident, in South Florida.
Pridefest (Pride South Florida) remains as the largest Pride Festival in the state of Florida with thousands of attendees and up to 250 vendors. It’s a two day celebration at War Memorial, Fort Lauderdale.