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Wednesday 08 April 2009

Anita Bryant: The Downfall of a Hatemonger

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 17th February 2009

Hatemonger: Anita Bryant
In the film Milk, Anita Bryant, a fundamentalist gospel singer, in Florida's Dade County led a successful campaign against an antidiscrimination ordinance. What happened to her afterward in real life?

Born in 1940, Bryant was a beauty queen (Miss Oklahoma 1958) and was runner up at Miss America 1959. In 1966, she married Bob Green and started a new career as a fundamentalist gospel singer. As that career matured, she became a spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission, and won further commercial endorsements from Coke, Kraft, Holiday Inn and Tupperware.

In 1977, she became mired in controversy when she fought Dade County's new antidiscrimination ordinance for lesbians and gay men.While her campaign repealed it, Miami Dade County passed another such ordinance in 1998.

Bryant suffered from the resultant liberal and gay backlash, which meant that she lost her Florida Citrus Commission endorsement due to a successful boycott, and her other commercial endorsements dried up. But there were other stresses in her life, which she related to Perry Deane Young, a surprised gay journalist, in the early eighties, as he researched a new book about the US Christian Right.

At the time of her antigay campaigning, Bryant was living a lie. Her husband, Bob Green, was emotionally abusive, distant and hostile, and as Bryant's career faltered, she became suicidal until she came to a realisation- her happy fundamentalist marriage was a sham, and to save her own life, she had to end it. Bryant divorced Green in 1980, which meant that she was abruptly dropped by her fairweather fundamentalist male friends, as divorce was verboten in those circles. She confessed to Young that she now understood what feminists were talking about, given her own experiences of a hellish marriage and her subsequent divorce.

Bryant stayed single for another decade, trying to revive her stalled career, before marrying Charlie Dry in 1990. Bryant and Dry still hold occassional comeback attempts on the gospel and country/western circuit, but they've filed for bankruptcy twice, in Arkansas (1997) and Tennessee (2000). Currently resettled in Oklahoma, she runs Anita Bryant Ministries, and is unrepentant about her homophobic past.

Bryant's fate is a sad one, but not one that is completely unknown when it comes to our own conservative Christian zealots. Still, her admission is one that is comforting, as is her wisdom from experience. Happy families? Not in this case.


Perry Deane Young: God's Bullies: New York: Rhinehart and Wilson: 1984.

Anita Bryant: The Anita Bryant Story: The Survival of Our Nation's Families and the Threat of Militant Homosexuality: Old Tappan: Revell: 1977.

Anita Bryant and Bob Green: At Any Cost: Old Tappan: Revell: 1978.

Craig Young - 17th February 2009