1977: Anita Bryant founds "Save Our Children," and starts organized opposition to the movement for lesbian and gay rights.

Anti-Gay Organizing on the Right

In January of 1977, the Dade County Commission passed a gay-rights ordinance, making Miami the fortieth US city with such a law. The vote alarmed Anita Bryant, a singer, former beauty queen, and born-again Christian, who began a campaign to repeal the ordinance. Within six weeks, Bryant had gathered the signatures necessary to put the issue to Dade County voters. Bryant formed an organization called Save Our Children, Inc., and based the campaign on the idea that "Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they must recruit." In June, the gay rights ordinance was repealed by a vote of more than 2-to-1. The repeal in Miami led to a wave of repeals and gay-rights defeats in other states, including the passage of an Oklahoma law banning gay men and lesbians from teaching in the public schools.

By focussing on the idea that gays and lesbians were somehow threatening to children, Bryant had created an incredibly powerful rhetorical focus for social conservatives. In 1981, Jerry Falwell echoed her language in a fundraising letter that reminded his followers, "Please remember, homosexuals don't reproduce! They recruit! And they are out after my children and your children." By the beginning of the 1980s, the Religious Right had made the fight against gay and lesbian liberation one of its primary issues, and found it a particularly effective focus for fundraising appeals. The efforts of conservatives slowed the advance of gay-rights and established an organized anti-gay opposition. That opposition is still a force in US politics today. Gay rights and anti-gay conservatives have squared off in a number of recent battles, including the fight over gays in the military and efforts to legislate against civil rights protections for lesbian and gay men.

Source: Miller
Image: UPI/Corbis-Bettman