Family values and Florida go hand in hand. No other person embodied those two things more than Anita Bryant. Anita showed us that with a little vitamin c and a lot of hatred in your heart you too can be a winner.
Bryant was crowned 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 Miami disc jockey, with whom she eventually raised four children, including Gloria and Robert Jr. (Bobby).
Her three biggest pop hits were: "Till There Was You" (1959); "Paper Roses" (1960) (successfully covered 13 years later by Marie Osmond); and "In My Little Corner of the World" (1960). She placed a total of eleven songs in the Top 100.
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". Here she is in all her beauty.
In 1977, Dade County, Florida (now Miami-Dade County) passed a human-rights ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Anita Bryant led a highly publicized campaign to repeal the ordinance. The campaign was waged based on what was labeled "Christian beliefs regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality and the perceived threat of homosexual recruitment of children and child molestation."
Her view was 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 was called 'Save Our Children', the start of 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." 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 fallout from her political activism had a devastating effect on 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, although he reportedly has said that his fundamentalist religious beliefs do not recognize civil divorce and that she is still his wife in God's eyes. Some observers feel that her husband pushed her to get involved in the political activism that eventually led to her downfall and loss of income. Kathie Lee Gifford, who worked as a live-in secretary/babysitter for the Greens in the early 1970s said in her autobiography that Green had a ferocious temper and could be very possessive and emotionally abusive and that Anita was not very happy.
Due to her divorce, many fundamentalist Christians shunned her. No longer invited to appear at their events, she lost a source of income. With her four children she moved from Miami to Selma, Alabama, and later to Atlanta, Georgia. In a 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 now lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, and says she does charity work for various youth organizations while heading Anita Bryant Ministries International.
They Always Come Back:
Florida still hates Gay folk. Anita has revived her career. She returned to her high school in Tulsa on April 21, 2007, to perform in the school's annual musical revue.