Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Anita Bryant Pied 1977

Anita Bryant Pied 1977

October 14, 1977

Many young people today don’t recognize the name Anita Bryant, but for Boomers she is someone who we associate with at least two things: selling orange juice and selling homophobia.

Bryant was born on March 25, 1940 in Barnsdall, Oklahoma. As a child she enjoyed singing and sang on stage starting at the age of six at various fairgrounds. Bryant also sang occasionally on radio and television.

Anita Bryant Pied 1977

Miss Oklahoma

Bryant became Miss Oklahoma in 1958 and was a second runner-up in the 1959 Miss America beauty pageant at age 19. She had just graduated from high school.

In 1960, Bryant married Bob Green. They had four children together.

Anita Bryant Pied 1977

Singer

In the early 60s, she had a successful singing career with minor hits such as  “Till There Was You” (1959, US #30), “Paper Roses” (1960, US #5), “In My Little Corner of the World” (1960, US #10); and “Wonderland by Night” (1961, US #18).

Bryant performed the National Anthem at Super Bowl III in 1969 and sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” during the halftime show of Super Bowl V in 1971 and at the graveside services for Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973.

Anita Bryant Pied 1977

Florida Citrus Commission spokesperson

In 1969 Bryant became a spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission and was often seen on commercials that featured her singing “Come to the Florida Sunshine Tree.” She also appeared in advertisements for Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Holiday Inn and Tupperware.

Anita Bryant Pied 1977

Political activist

In 1977, Dade County, Florida, passed an ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Bryant led a campaign to repeal the ordinance as the leader of a coalition named Save Our Children [later the name changed due to the actual Save Our Children group protesting against the group’s use of the name]. Jerry Falwell assisted her.

She said, 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.

She also stated, “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.”

Bryant’s campaign led to a repeal of the anti-discrimination ordinance in June by a margin of 69 to 31 percent. Following the repeal, the Florida legislature approved a measure prohibiting gay adoption, a ban that lasted until 2008.

Anita Bryant Pied 1977

Anita Bryant Pie

Emboldened by her success in Florida, Bryant and her husband went national with their anti-gay message, but on October 14, 1977  while in Des Moines, Iowa,, a gay rights activist pushed a whipped cream pie into Anita Bryant’s face during a press conference. Her reaction  was to say “Well, at least it’s a fruit pie” (being derogatory) and with her husband’s encouragement, praying for the activist and asking for his forgiveness.

As her campaign grew, so did a reaction to it. Gay organizations began an orange juice boycott which eventually many celebrities supported, including Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Dick Clark, Carroll O’Connor, Mary Tyler Moore, Charles Schulz, Billie Jean King, and Jane Fonda.

Anita Bryant Pied 1977

Decline

In 1979, the Florida Citrus Commission dropped let Bryant’s contract lapse.  She divorced her husband in 1980, which angered many of the fundamentalist Christians that had supported her anti-gay campaigns.  She and her second husband tried to reignite her career with the  “Anita Bryant’s Music Mansion.”  It went bankrupt as did other business ventures.

She continues to defend her anti-gay activism and views. In an odd way, one can argue that her vocal homophobia helped organize the LGBTQ community in ways that had not happened before. Having said that, it also organized the anti-gay movement that continues today.

Anita Bryant Pied 1977
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Richard John Baker v Gerald R Nelson

Richard John Baker v Gerald R Nelson

June 26, 2017

Perhaps some day June 26 will be a holiday recognizing the import of the US Supreme Court decision on that date in 2015 when the Court decided in Obergefell v Hodges that same -sex marriage was legal according to the US Constitution.

Some day.

Richard John Baker and James Michael McConnell

Richard John Baker and James Michael McConnell met at a barn party on Halloween night, 1966, in Norman, Oklahoma. They fell in love and on March 10, 1967 Baker proposed to McConnell.  McConnell said yes, but only if they could marry.

Yes you read correctly. It was 1967 and of course the large majority of Americans would have found the idea of two men marrying as laughable as it was illegal.

Richard John Baker v Gerald R Nelson

Long road

In 1970, the couple lived in Minneapolis and in May they kept their and several other same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses to Minneapolis court clerk Gerald R. Nelson. The clerk denied the licenses saying that marriage was limited to “persons of the opposite sex,” though the Minnesota laws said nothing about such a limitation.

Baker and McConnell sued. Not only did the judge uphold the clerk’s decision, but he specifically ordered that no such licenses be issued.

Despite the setback, both men were determined to find a way forward. McConnell adopted Baker in August 1971 so that the couple would be able to access some tax benefits and inheritance rights for each other. Also Jack Baker legally assumed the gender-neutral name “Pat Lynn McConnell” and on August 16, 1971, using Baker’s new name, the town clerk of Mankato, a small town west of Minneapolis in Blue Earth County, issued them a marriage license.

Richard John Baker v Gerald R Nelson

Married

On September 3, 1971, the Rev. Roger Lynn of the United Methodist Church officiated their marriage  in a private ceremony.

The Blue Earth County Attorney challenged the legitimacy of their marriage license, but a grand jury “found the question not worth pursuing.” Baker and McConnell considered themselves legally married from then on.

Six weeks after their wedding, on October 15, 1971, the Minnesota  Supreme Court ruled that marriage “is a union of man and woman” that the Constitution did not provide for same-sex couples to get married.

Richard John Baker v Gerald R Nelson

Federal appeal

Baker and McConnell appealed their case to the US Supreme Court. Almost exactly a year later, on October 10, 1972, that Court stated: “Appeal from Sup. Ct. Minn. dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.”

That one sentence established a powerful and long-lasting precedent, one often used by the opponents of marriage equality for the next 30 years.

Richard John Baker v Gerald R Nelson

A life together

Richard John Baker v Gerald R Nelson

Baker and McConnell continued their lives together as a happily married couple and continued their activism. Baker became an attorney and a local politician, and McConnell had a 37 year career as a librarian with Hennepin County. They have both retired and continue to live in Minnesota.

Richard John Baker v Gerald R Nelson

Wedding Heard ‘Round the World

Richard John Baker v. Gerald R Nelson

In 2016 the University of Minnesota Press published The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World, America’s First Gay Marriage written  by Michael McConnell with Jack Baker.

Link >>> Marriage Equality dot org story

Richard John Baker v Gerald R Nelson
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Matthew Shepard Murder

Matthew Shepard Murder

October 6, 1998

Before Laramie

The story of Matthew Shepard. He was born in Casper, Wyoming on December 1, 1976 to Judy and Dennis Shepard. He and his family moved to Saudia Arabia when he was a high school junior, but Matthew finished school at the American School in Switzerland because there were no American high schools in Saudi Arabia.

Matthew was well-liked by his fellow students in both high schools.

After graduating from high school and attending a couple different colleges, Matt moved back to Wyoming where he studied political science, foreign relations and languages at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Matthew Shepard Murder

McKinney & Russell

On October 6, 1998  Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, strangers to Matthew, met him at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie. Because of his small stature, McKinney and Henderson figured Shepard would be easy to rob.

They said they’d give a ride home but drove to a rural area where they tied him to a split-rail fence, beat him severely with the butt of a .357 Smith & Wesson pistol, and left him to die in the near-freezing temperatures of the early morning hours of October 7.

18 hour later Aaron Kreifels, a biker, discovered Shepard. So badly beaten that Kreifels at thought Shepard was a scarecrow.  Shepard was still alive but comatose.

Medics rushed him 65 miles to Fort Collins, Colorado where he remained in a coma for four days. Doctors pronounced him dead at 12:53 A.M. on October 12, 1998. He was 21 years old.

Matthew Shepard Murder

Westboro Baptist Church

On October 17, the Shepard family buried Matthew. Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, took his church’s “God Hates Fags” message to the funeral. Two of his picket signs read: “No Tears for Queers” and “Fag Matt in Hell.”

Matthew Shepard Murder

Life sentences

On April 5, 1999 Russell Henderson pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Aaron McKinney to avoid the death penalty; Henderson would receive two consecutive life sentences.

The jury in McKinney’s trial found him guilty of felony murder. As they began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard’s parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

Matthew Shepard Murder

Hate Crimes Prevention Act

On April 3, 2001 Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The bill died when it failed to advance in the Subcommittee on Crime.

On April 2, 2004 The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act reintroduced. It failed to advance in committee. On May 26, 2005 The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act reintroduced. It failed to advance in committee.

On March 30, 2007 The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  reintroduced a fourth time. The 2007 version of the bill added gender identity to the list of suspect classes for prosecution of hate crimes. The bill was again referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

On May 3, 2007. The House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, but the bill got stuck in Senate committee.

On September 27, 2007, the Senate passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  as an amendment to another bill. President George W Bush indicated he would veto the legislation if it reached his desk. Democratic leadership dropped the amendment because of opposition from conservative groups and President George Bush.

Matthew Shepard Murder

President Barak Obama

Matthew Shepard Murder

On April 2, 2009 Rep John Conyers for a fifth time introduced the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. It has the support of President Obama.

On October 28, 2009 President Obama signed the Act as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010. The measure expanded the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Matthew Shepard Murder

Matthew Shepard Foundation

During the years that followed Shepard’s brutal murder, the Shepard family received donations from all over the world. They decided to begin the Matthew Shepard Foundation. It’s mission is to empower individuals to embrace human dignity and diversity through outreach, advocacy and resource programs. It strives to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance. [link to MSF]

Matthew Shepard Murder
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