Anita Bryant made her name as a singer of easy listening music (Paper Roses was her big hit), but she was probably most famous as the spokesperson for the Florida Orange Growers Association (she sang the National Anthem at the 1969 Super Bowl in Miami). However, she became notorious in 1977 when she spearheaded a campaign that was successful in getting voters to repeal a law protecting gay residents of Dade County from job and housing discrimination. This contentious referendum, which took place on June 7, received national attention.
I'll never forget reading the following passage from an article in TIME Magazine reporting on the heated campaign:
Bryant told one interviewer that God does not like homosexuals because "the male homosexual eats another man's sperm. Sperm is the most concentrated form of blood. The homosexual is eating life". During a debate with Gay Rights Activist Bob Kunst she startled the audience by breaking into a stirring rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Although a stinging blow to the gay community, it was the first time gay men and lesbians actively fought to keep their rights. And the following year, led by Harvey Milk, gays in California successfully fought back the Briggs Initiative, a proposed law that would have banned gay men and lesbians from being teachers in the state.