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Anita Jane Bryant (born March 25, 1940, in Barnsdall, Oklahomamarker) is an Americanmarker singer and gay rights opponent. She scored four Top 40 hits in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including "Paper Roses", which reached #5. She later became widely known for her strong views against homosexuality and for her prominent campaigning in 1977 to repeal a local ordinance in Dade County, Floridamarker, that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In addition to the Florida campaign, she made public appearances in several other states in order to argue for the repeal of local anti-discrimination ordinances. As a result of her activism, she became a nationally known figure, sparking boycotts of products she advertised for. By the early 1980s she had receded from public view, and later returned to the music industry, but with little success. Bryant is a member of a conservative church congregation affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Early life and career

Bryant was born in Barnsdallmarker, Oklahomamarker. Soon after her sister Sandra was born, her mother and father divorced. Her father went into the U.S. Army and her mother went to work, taking her children to live with their grandparents temporarily. When Bryant was two years old, her grandfather taught her to sing "Jesus Loves Me". She was singing at the age of six onstage on local fairgrounds in Oklahoma. She sang occasionally on radio and television, and was invited to audition when Arthur Godfrey's talent show came to town. Her father at first refused to allow her to go on Godfrey's show, relenting only when he was told that it would be a sin for his daughter not to share her talent.

Bryant became Miss Oklahoma in 1958 and was a second runner-up in the 1959 Miss America beauty pageant at age 19, right after graduating from Tulsa's Will Rogers High School.

In 1960, she married Bob Green, a Miamimarker disc jockey, with whom she eventually raised four children: Robert Jr. (Bobby), Gloria, Billy, and Barbara. She appeared early in her career on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood.

Bryant placed a total of eleven songs on the U.S. Hot 100, although most were at the bottom reaches of the chart. She had a moderate pop hit with "Till There Was You" (1959, US #30). She also saw three hits in "Paper Roses" (1960, US #5, and covered by Marie Osmond 13 years later); "In My Little Corner of the World" (1960, US #10); and "Wonderland by Night" (1961, US #18).

Bryant released several albums on the Carlton and Columbia labels. The 1959 Carlton LP Anita Bryant contained "Till There Was You" (from The Music Man). The 1963 Columbia Greatest Hits LP contained both Carlton and Columbia songs, including "Paper Roses" and "Step by Step, Little by Little". In 1964 she released The World of Lonely People, containing, in addition to the title song, "Welcome, Welcome Home" and a new rendition of "Little Things Mean a Lot", arranged by Frank Hunter.

In 1969 she became a spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission, and nationally televised commercials featured her singing "Come to the Florida Sunshine Tree" and stating the commercials' tagline: "Breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine." All the commercials are now preserved and owned by the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives in Miami. In addition, during this time, she also appeared in advertisements for Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Holiday Inn and Tupperware.

She sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" during the graveside services for Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973, and performed the National Anthem at Super Bowl III in 1969.

Political campaigning

Save Our Children

In 1977, Dade County, Floridamarker (now Miami-Dade County), passed an ordinance sponsored by Bryant's former good friend Ruth Shack, that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Bryant led a highly publicized campaign to repeal the ordinance as the leader of a coalition named Save Our Children. The campaign was based on conservative Christian beliefs regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality and the perceived threat of homosexual recruitment of children and child molestation.

She said that "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." The campaign began an organized opposition to gay rights that spread across the nation. Jerry Falwell went to Miami to help her.

Bryant made the following statements during the campaign: "As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children" and "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." She also added that "All America and all the world will hear what the people have said, and with God's continued help we will prevail in our fight to repeal similar laws throughout the nation." On June 7, 1977, Bryant's campaign led to a repeal of the anti-discrimination ordinance by a margin of 69 to 31 percent.
A boycott was organized against the Florida Citrus Commission, who used Bryant in advertising.

The gay community retaliated against Bryant by organizing a boycott on orange juice. Gay bars all over North America took screwdrivers off their drink menus and replaced them with the "Anita Bryant", which was made with vodka and apple juice. Sales and proceeds went to gay civil rights activists to help fund their fight against Bryant and her campaign.

Victory and defeat

In 1977, Florida legislators approved a measure prohibiting gay adoption. The ban was overturned more than 30 years later when, on November 25, 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy S. Lederman declared it unconstitutional and "not rational."

Bryant led several more campaigns around the country to repeal local anti-discrimination ordinances including St. Paul, Minnesotamarker, Wichita, Kansasmarker, and Eugene, Oregonmarker. Her success led to an effort to pass the Briggs Initiative in Californiamarker which would have made pro- or neutral statements regarding homosexuals or homosexuality by any public school employee cause for dismissal. Grass-roots liberal organizations, chiefly in Los Angelesmarker and the San Francisco Bay Areamarker, sprang up to defeat the initiative. Days before the election, the California Democratic Party opposed the proposed legislation. The initiative suffered a massive defeat at the polls.

In 1998 Dade County 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 by a seven to six vote. In 2002 a ballot initiative to repeal the 1998 law called Amendment 14 was voted down by 56 percent of the voters. The Florida statute forbidding gay adoption was upheld in 2004 by a federal appellate court against a constitutional challenge, but was overturned by a Miami-Dade Circuit Court in November 2008.
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Anita Bryant's political success galvanized her opponents. She became one of the first persons to be publicly "pied" as a political act (in her case, on television), in Des Moinesmarker in 1977. Bryant quipped "At least it's a fruit pie," apparently making a pun on the derogatory term for a gay man, "fruit." Bryant's husband later took another pie and threw it at the LGBT rights protesters that had pied his wife. By this time, gay activists had ensured the boycott on Florida orange juice had become more prominent and it was supported by many celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Paul Williams, John Waters, Carroll O'Connor, Mary Tyler Moore and Jane Fonda. The story was told in the book, At Any Cost (1978). To this day, Bryant is reviled by the gay community who regard her name as synonymous with bigotry and homophobia.

Career decline and bankruptcy

The fallout from her political activism hurt her business and entertainment career. Her contract with the Florida Citrus Commission was allowed to lapse in 1979 because of the controversy and the negative publicity generated by her political campaigns and the resulting boycott of Florida orange juice.

Her marriage to Bob Green failed at that time, and in 1980 she divorced him, citing emotional abusiveness and latent suicidal thoughts. Green refuses to accept this, given that his fundamentalist religious beliefs do not recognize civil divorce and that she is "still" his wife "in God's eyes."

Some fundamentalist audiences and venues shunned her after her divorce. As she was no longer invited to appear at their events, she lost another major source of income. With her four children, she moved from Miami to Selma, Alabamamarker, and later to Atlanta, Georgiamarker. In a 1980 Ladies Home Journal article she said, "The church needs to wake up and find some way to cope with divorce and women's problems." She also expressed some sympathy for feminist aspirations, given her own experiences of emotional abuse within her previous marriage.

She married her second husband, Charlie Hobson Dry, in 1990, and they tried to reestablish her music career in a series of small venues, including Branson, Missourimarker, and Pigeon Forge, Tennesseemarker. Their plans failed, however, and Bryant and Dry left behind them a series of unpaid employees and creditors. Her career decline is detailed in her book, A New Day (1992). They filed for bankruptcy in Arkansasmarker (1997) and in Tennesseemarker (2001).

Bryant returned to Barnsdall, Oklahoma, in 2005 for the town's 100th anniversary celebration and to have a street renamed in her honor. She returned to her high school in Tulsa on April 21, 2007, to perform in the school's annual musical revue. She now lives in Edmond, Oklahomamarker, and says she does charity work for various youth organizations while heading Anita Bryant Ministries International.

In a 1980 Ladies Home Journal interview, following her divorce and in the aftermath of her anti-gay activism, Bryant commented on her anti-gay views and said, "I'm more inclined to say live and let live, just don't flaunt it or try to legalize it." However, the biography page on her Anita Bryant Ministries website (written in 2006) continues to defend her earlier anti-gay activism and views.


Charted hits

Year Title Chart Positions
1959 "Till There Was You" 30
"Six Boys and Seven Girls" 62
"Do-Re-Mi" 94
1960 "Paper Roses" 5 16
"In My Little Corner of the World" 10
"One of the Lucky Ones" 62
"Promise Me a Rose (A Slight Detail)" 78
1961 "Wonderland by Night" 18
"A Texan and a Girl from Mexico" 85
"I Can't Do It by Myself" 87
1964 "The World of Lonely People" 59

Notable songs

  • "Step by Step, Little by Little"
  • "Welcome, Welcome Home"
  • "The Wedding"

Cultural references

  • In the film Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke, after officers are not able to get inside the battle of the bands concert, a guy at the ticket booth remarks "Jeez, no wonder Anita Bryant is so pissed off!"
  • In the TV series Will & Grace, the character Karen Walker refers to Anita Bryant as being her enemy who fell in love with her.
  • In an episode of television's Saturday Night Live, Jane Curtin, portraying Bryant, plans an anti-gay sting operation with police and gets angry when one of the police turns down her offer of orange juice by saying he'd already had some for breakfast.
  • In the TV series Designing Women, Bryant is mentioned on more than one occasion by Suzanne Sugarbaker, referencing both her beauty pageant history, as well as her political activism.
  • In an episode of the TV sitcom The Golden Girls, an effeminate male wedding planner is overcome with emotion, causing character Blanche Devereaux to sarcastically comment, "You're ready to fly right outta here, aren't you?" The man replies, "Well, excuse me for living, Anita Bryant!" In another episode, Dorothy Zbornak complains that although she and Rose Nylund placed second in a song-writing contest about Miamimarker, they still got "treated badly" because the judges told them "to get out of the way as they took the winner's picture with Anita Bryant."
  • Mad magazine's parody of the television sitcom Three's Company (where John Ritter's character, Jack, pretends to be gay to share an apartment with two women) ends with a visit from the "new landlord," a whip-wielding Anita Bryant.
  • In several episodes of the first season of TV's Soap, the gay character of Jodie Dallas refers to Anita Bryant as an anti-gay reference.
  • In the film Airplane!, Leslie Nielsen's character, Doctor Rumack, upon seeing a large number of passengers become violently ill, vomit, and suffer uncontrollable flatulence, says, "I haven't seen anything this bad since the Anita Bryant concert."
  • In the song "Fuck Anita Bryant," on his album Nothing Sacred, David Allan Coe expresses his feelings for Bryant.
  • In an episode of TV's Gilmore Girls (season 2, episode 12: "Richard In Stars Hollow"), Lorelai says to her father that he could fill a huge gap after Anita Bryant because her father always has half a grapefruit for breakfast.
  • In the song "Mañana" by Jimmy Buffett, Buffett says "I hope Anita Bryant never ever does one of my songs."
  • The Dead Kennedys song "Moral Majority" addresses Bryant along with Phyllis Schlafly and others, with the refrain "God must be dead if you're alive."
  • In Armistead Maupin's novel More Tales of the City, Michael Tolliver's parents write to him praising Anita Bryant's "Save Our Children" campaign, prompting him to write back and come out of the closet.
  • In the 1989 film Roger & Me, Bryant is interviewed and travels to Flint, Michigan, as part of the effort to revitalize the devastated local economy.
  • In the 2008 film Milk, Bryant's anti-gay activism is shown in various newsreels.
  • On their 2004 album Un, UK band Chumbawamba made reference to Bryant and the pie-hitting on the track "Just Desserts."


  1. "Miami DEmonstrations, 1977 Year in Review."
  3. 'For the Bible Tells Me So': Setting us straight
  4. CNN Transcripts
  5. Louis-Georges Tin, Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience (2003), ISBN 978-1551522296
  6. Thomas C. Tobin, Bankruptcy, ill will plague Bryant, St. Petersburg Times, 28 April 2002.
  7. Cliff Jahr, "Anita Bryant's Startling Reversal", Ladies Home Journal 97 (December 1980), 60-68.

External links

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