In 1977, the backlash against the gay rights movement, so long feared and expected by activists, began in the United States.
Till this point progress had been more or less uninterrupted. And in 1977 alone, the US State Department had finally repealed its ban on the employment of homosexuals which had been in force since the 1940s. (In the 1960s, some of the very first gay rights demos had been staged to protest this ban). Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to a local government council (in San Francisco unsurprisingly). On TV, ‘Soap’ began beaming its openly and happily gay character into the world’s lounge rooms. In Jimmy Carter’s White House senior aids were meeting with activists to discuss how to supprt their cause. Even in the Republican Party, gays were coming out – their caucus, the Log Cabin Republicans was founded.
Many local governments were passing gay rights ordinances, adopting policies opposing discrimination. In January, Miami became the first major city in the South to do so. And here the trouble began. Anita Bryant, a former Miss America runner-up and born-again Christian, was outraged. She published a full-page ad in the Miami Herald warning that ‘Since homosexuals cannot reproduce, they must recruit, must freshen their ranks. And who better qualifies as a likely recruit than a teenage boy or girl who is surging with sexual awareness’. It was a declaration of war by Bryant and her organisation, Save Our Children. And in the USA, at least, the war is raging still.
Brought to you by the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives