The Return of Anita Bryant

Most readers of this blog are old enough to remember Anita Bryant, and her campaign to “Save Our Children” from those wicked gay people.  Over the years, she’s become something of a punch line, at least in the gay community. To appropriate a line from the movie Jaws, however, “she’s back!” Not in the flesh, of course, but in the antics of state-level GOP political figures like Ron DeSantis.

The return of Republican focus on–and antipathy to–equal rights for LGBTQ+ Americans was highlighted in a recent roundtable discussion among New York Times  opinion writers.

That discussion included a number of penetrating observations, and I will be posting about a couple of them in future posts. But today, I want to share what I believe are well-founded concerns about what appears to be a foundational issue for Republican culture warriors.

One of the participants in the Roundtable, Jane Coaston, addressed that issue–return of  the GOP’s assault on LGBTQ rights.

 I went back to some old Times pieces talking about the Southern Baptist Convention’s boycott of Disney, because Disney started offering same-sex health care benefits in 1995. I think that for anyone who is L.G.B.T. and over the age of 30, this all seems very repetitive.

Ezra Klein, another Roundtable participant, identified a “challenge” to the strategists of the G.O.P.– he pointed out that the party has “this wave of people” who have begun screaming, “OK, groomer,” at literally any L.G.B.T. person on the internet. Despite the fact that traditional conservative outlets like National Review are warning politicians not to say things like that, “no one’s listening.”

He’s right. Bloomberg reports that Republican legislators have proposed at least 325 anti-gay bills this year, with about 130 targeting transgender rights. Twenty-seven became law in 2021;  so far this year, seven have passed.

As Coaston noted,

 These issues have to do, one, with a conceit of what L.G.B.T. people are and how L.G.B.T. people become L.G.B.T. I think we’ve seen over the last couple of days, some social conservatives who essentially argue that bills like in Florida, which keep being posited as being about sex ed — they aren’t about sex ed. There’s no mention of sex education or sexual activity in that bill. It mentions sexual orientation and gender identity. But the idea is that if you simply do not ever let people know that there is such thing as gay or trans people, then people will not be gay or trans.

Rod Dreher, the conservative writer said that, oh, no, no, when we’re talking about grooming, we’re not talking about pedophiles — which is ridiculous. But he essentially said that, oh, it means that an adult who wants to separate children from a normative sexual and gender identity to inspire confusion in them, which just reminds me of Anita Bryant in 1978, essentially arguing that homosexuals must recruit, and that all children are cisgender and heterosexual until something happens.

Coaston made another important point about this particular part of the GOP’s culture war: the attacks on trans children aren’t separate and distinct from attitudes about gay rights generally. These “warriors” are still mad about Bostock. They’re still mad about Obergefell. 

That’s something that we keep needing to relearn: that there is no part of the L.G.B.T. community that’s OK for some social conservatives. It’s not as if like, “Trans rights went too far, but we’re totally fine with gay couples. We’re totally fine with everything like that.” That might have been how it was parlayed, but that was never true.

In this blog, I frequently note the ways in which today’s GOP is dramatically different–and far, far more radical–than the party most of us once knew. An exchange between Coaston and Klein highlighted that difference…and was chilling. Coaston characterized today’s GOP as a “secular fundamentalist religion– “QAnon, but an areligious QAnon.”

Klein responded:

Well, it’s both, right? Because on the one hand, you have a Rod Dreher version of it, which is very, very Christian, “We’re trying to protect traditional gender roles.” It’s why he’s out there tweeting that Viktor Orban in Hungary is now the leader of the entire West. And on the other side you have this groomer thing, which is an attempt to take QAnon’s view — which is one reason it’s resonating on the far right — that all of politics is an effort by Democrats to protect pedophiles and then find some way to sort of wink, wink that you’re on board with that view of politics while saying it’s actually a little bit about something else…

As Klein also observed, countries live or fall on how well they police the fringes–the crazies– in their political parties.

Republicans not only haven’t done that policing, they’ve become their fringe. And LGBTQ people aren’t the only ones they endanger.


  1. Has anyone else noticed that the current Republican “social conservatives” fight against and attempt to outlaw anything with a hint of LGBTQ orientation while their supporters have put their support behind their own heterosexual sex offenders and child sex trafficker connections within their own party? Donald Trump is the first to come to mind with 18 or 19 sex abuse charges against him and his long time connection to Epstein, et al, have been overturned.

    As for Anita Bryant; her determination to end any and all possibility of LGBTQ candidates being elected strengthened Harvey Milk’s determination to fight for, and win, his support for American rights for all Americans. His fight included supporting the mental health facility to be opened in Dan White’s district in San Francisco which resulted in Dan White murdering Harvey Milk and Mayor Mosconi. Their fight for democracy and civil and human rights for all cost them their lives and Dan White was sentenced to 5 years in prison when his legal team came up with the “Twinkie Defense”. The Republican “crazies” fight against LGBTQs, along with their racial and anti-Semitic laws and voter suppression have again taken over the party and appear to be winning. The current Republican/Trumpist/”social conservative”/White Nationalist party is determined to deprive the majority of this nation of all civil and human rights.

    “As Klein also observed, countries live or fall on how well they police the fringes–the crazies– in their political parties.”

    “Republicans not only haven’t done that policing, they’ve become their fringe. And LGBTQ people aren’t the only ones they endanger.”

  2. The republicans demand that they and only they get to decide what laws are written and enforced. Their claims that our government is too big and powerful are quickly tossed out the window when they want to control peoples’ private lives.

    Until LBGTQ citizens become entitled to the same civil rights that the rest of us enjoy I believe they should not be required to pay a single penny for any type of tax. No federal, state, county, city or sales taxes. Why should they be forced to financially support government entities that refuse to give them equal rights?

  3. Conspiracy; “a secret and nefarious plot or plan”

    Theorist; “a person concerned with the theoretical”

    Theoretical; “concerned with a subject or area of study rather than it’s practical application”

    Conspiracies are theoretical, hence, anyone can make up a conspiracy, in theory anything can be possible no matter how improbable! Is up down? Is down up? Are we living in a simulation? Or are we living in a multiverse? Is the truth reality? Or is reality all a lie? Or, are there multiple realities?

    Does an ignorant statement made, or a fanaticist movement or, a perpetuated rumor, have The Ring Of Truth? Or does it sound more like a ridiculous and unsupported delirium?

    It’s obvious that these theorist types keep trying to pound a square peg into a round hole! If it doesn’t fit, force it! Lie and perpetuate the LIE as if one’s life depends on it!

    Propaganda; “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, promoting a political cause or agenda!”

    Combine all these together, and you have a house of cards built on a rickety table. It has no foundation, no stability, and is subject to collapse with the slightest vibration.

    Cocktails of ifs and maybes, no matter how improbable, are used by almost all political parties and religious entities.

    When religion becomes political, that is a powerful powerful persuader for the weak minded! Those who want to live in a delusional fantasy rather than the here and now reality.

    Any scenario no matter how ridiculously unlikely or actually impossible, can be theoretical.

    So-called Patriots claim they are always correct, it’s their right to spread discord, it’s their right to spread disease, it’s their right to fight against not only government but their fellow man, their fellow citizen! It’s their right to demonize various groups of citizens, it’s their right to demonize other cultures, because their entirely made up reality allows them to be superheroes for their cause, the cause that IS that house of cards, built on a rickety table!

    When you have those in positions of authority promoting the unbelievable, secular civil society is really sliding towards the precipice of oblivion.

    That’s where the scared little patriotic superheroes pop out of their spider holes, feeling that they have some sort of Messianic right to inflict anarchy, or worse, on their fellow citizens, because of their lifestyles or beliefs.

    Homosexuality, or whatever anyone chooses to call it, has been around since the beginning. It usually was reserved for the elite. Very societal mainstream. The Greeks and Romans had actual regulations and rules of conduct and engagement concerning the practice. The same with the babylonians, and, the same with Israelites having male prostitutes in the temple. (1st Kings 14:22-24)

    Everyone has the right to have free will! Free Will can allow you to be enlightened, Free Will can allow you to be rigid, Free Will can allow you your own reality, and Free Will can allow you your lifestyle! Free Will can allow one to be a truth teller or Free Will can allow someone to live the LIE. Free Will can allow one to be a uniter, or, a divider! Free Will allows anyone to follow either or! Misuse of free will can definitely cause collapse of society, because mankind are natural hate driven dividers, causing a catastrophic lack of cohesiveness.

    Case in point, members of the military being empowered by certain political appointees in the courts, to refuse military regulation or orders that are meant to prevent disaster amongst those members themselves.

    Abraham Lincoln said “A House divided cannot stand!”

    “A house divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25)

    So, there you have it! A house of cards built on a rickety table, just waiting for a nudge!

  4. Down here in family friendly, deep red southwest Florida, not a day goes by when there isn’t at least one news story about child sexual or physical abuse. I can’t recall any of those stories mentioning an LGBTQ offender. I’m not claiming that it never happens, but it does seem to be rare. Meanwhile, our dear governor leads the pack of hypocrites trying to set the MAGA hounds on the LGBTQ fox.

  5. I am a 43 year old lesbian who really is tired of always feeling like I have to fight for my life. I have lost jobs due to being gay. I have been harassed. I have been bullied when outed in high school. I feel like I always have to be on guard for my safety. Especially these last few years. I never thought I would be able to legally marry in my lifetime. Then came Obergefell. I was elated. I am finally getting legally married this summer. I am so happy I have that ability now. But I know deep down that due to the current supreme court I will only be legally married for a short time before they take it away and send it back to the states. Clearly here in Indiana we will no longer be recognized as married. I am tired of people demonizing LGBTQ people for political advantage or religious views. Our country was founded in the separation of church and state, however, it seems that somehow religion always runs our country somehow. I will never understand why. In my opinion if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t have one. It you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. If you don’t like transgender, don’t change your sex. Etc … These last few years have been exhausting. And I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel any time soon. I do believe though that our young folks, who are mostly not discriminatory and don’t subscribe to these outdated, discriminatory viewpoints, will stand up and change things. But things will get much worse before that happens.

  6. Peggy, statistically its more rare as the LGBTQ is a smaller percentage. There are those who have been offended by pedophiles and go on to see a new reality and push for legislation against LGBTQ, again few.
    John Sorg your points are well taken. Excellent write up. And in my opinion as stated before the country is moving to the left. Many moderates did not see the political tact of Anita Bryant and today more bills have to be written to clarify positions. What I am hearing is that the Parental Rights Bill is antigay. Is it? Have you read it? How would you amend it? Somehow both sides of the LGBTQ issue have to come together to write legislation that can appeal to almost all.

  7. Jessica Kluth –
    I am sorry you have had to endure mean-spirited discrimination throughout your life just for being who you are. I hope you have at least encountered some of us who are straight and believe you should have the same civil rights the rest of us take for granted and we will continue to fight for your rights.

  8. Freud would have enjoyed all these issues related to the sex instinct. The more I dig into the truths of today, the less I want to know. Whoever mentioned Epstein, Trump, and Clinton are not far off from the actual truth.

    It’s why the whole QAnon conspiracies take hold of so many people because there are droplets of truths embedded in the conspiracies. Repressed sexual instincts are extremely prevalent in the deviates of today and most are coming from the conservative-minded. Add to the fact they are deluded and in denial of their condition.

    I am sure John can grab some scripture of what Jesus saw, but I can’t even imagine what’s festering today inside the ranks of the sexually repressed conservative men living biblical lives for their wives while wrestling with their deranged sexual instincts. 😉

  9. If the GOP had a platform, and it was honest, it would center on inequality. As the Constitution insists otherwise, they cannot overtly advertise that, but, that leaves covert advertising, propaganda, still as an effective promissory tool.

    The promise is to Republicans who need the power of government to restore the past which was that they are a clear voting majority and always will be despite what the numbers say.

    So using weasel words they act to exclude women (specifically those who claim to own their own bodies), all races but white, all religions but Christianity, all sexual preferences but one woman and one man (although several women, one man seems OK too), and lately they have added all educators and “intellectuals”.

    Now because of the diversity of the human race, they know that they have to live with all of those they diminish by law, so most Republicans would say that they do not personally agree with exclusion but if other Republicans hide it behind an adequate wall of confusing words, what can they do? Besides, they advertise, Democrats are evil and only have power by appealing to the majority of Americans. By changing, at least by perception, who the majority is, they rid the country of political evil and restore the power to where their god insists, on white, male, undereducated, heterosexual, Christians.

    In a perfect world that would exclude Republicans from even existing as a political party under the Constitution and the laws that support equality.

    That’s the beauty of propaganda and pervasive entertainment media though. Together they can create a veneer of respectability to obscure almost any action.

  10. Churches are hotbeds of all the activities they claim to despise.

    It’s always projection.

  11. religion has its points, but into someones personal lives they should have respect. if they demand respect because of a higher being,and the jargon they write in theology,seems they have double standards. the church isnt a bastion of love anymore,its a debate on whos worthy. they then pass this critique to lawmakers who demand the vote if they agree. unfortunatly,the right wing who never were pro choice in lifestyles,have dug deeper to fill their political pockets with religious staying power. how many of these gotta donate charity funds wind up in politcal ads? im seeing more mixed race,pro gay commercials on the tube. seems the buying public hasnt a problem with the everyday public view. the ones who bryant the subject,need to look over the fence. if your lifestyle demands your full attention to a religious cause,try feeding the hungry that would work as a better goal,if you see human suffering first over your need to condem someone.

  12. Jessica, like Nancy, I am sorry you’ve had to suffer that discrimination. You made me smile when you said you were getting married! Congratulations and best wishes for your future!

    My closest cousin to me went through that gay conversion therapy at the local Baptist church in Alabama. He said it didn’t work. Why is that? He said because I kept waking up gay.

    Leave them alone!

  13. To Jessica —
    I am so sorry that you have had to experience the hatred and bigotry of others. You mentioned feeling exhausted — I can only imagine. I am exhausted just listening to the hate, let alone having to deal with it personally.
    I agree with you about our young people being much more tolerant. I only hope they get motivated to vote these hate mongers out of office in November otherwise things WILL get worse and it will be almost impossible to set it back to right again. I have never seen a group of folks so determined to get their way that they are willing to use any tactic, including lying and subterfuge on a massive scale.
    Stay safe, Jessica. I will hold you in light and love.

  14. The GOP base loves bullying. After all, how do you make yourself feel better about your situation? You find someone weaker and more vulnerable, and attack them. It’s spiritual support for the ignorant and psychotic. It’s despicable and pathetic, but not deserving of pity.

    This recalls the issues around the bullying of gay kids in schools. The evangelicals argued that denying them the ability to bully gay kids violated their religious rights.

    Politicians know what the base desires and they make it happen. I think the laws are actually less about religion (although religion is definitely a big factor) and more about feeding that need to bully, to prop up the people who are desperate to find groups to which they can feel superior. Where to direct the rage and helplessness the base feels when faced with modernity?

  15. Jack,

    Bastion; “a projecting part of a fortification built at an angle to the line of a wall, so as to allow defensive fire in several directions.”

    So, you hit the nail right on the head Jack. It’s the same as propaganda, so much crap is flying out of the fan, you don’t know where to duck! You can run from it but you can’t hide from it, lol! Eventually, that crap is going to stick somewhere, and wherever it sticks, that’s where the boogeyman resides so to speak. I like that reference!

    Now, for a digression. I find it fascinating, the amount of empathy flooding the commentary today. Empathy is a good thing, but empathy is only as good as those empathizers consciences! An untrained conscience is fairly useless, because it allows things that it shouldn’t, or it focuses on only one blinder driven direction. That’s kind of what you call hypocrisy!

    Hypocrisy: “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform, I.e pretense.”

    Pretense; “an attempt to make a false or ambitious claim appear true.”

    Some aspire to be liked, some want to belong, some March to the beat of a different drummer, and some just don’t care what other people think! A trained conscience limits the first two, but will embrace the last two points.

    The first two will allow a mob mentality, the last two will not. The first two are a sign of narcissistic behavior, the last two are not. That’s the great thing about Free Will, or being a Free Moral Agent! A person can be who or what they aspire, for acceptance sake, or, not! Frankness in speech and belief, is always better than pretentious diatribe and conduct🤔! 🙈🙉🙊,🤣…….

  16. If I remember my religiuos teachings correctly in 12 years of Catholic schools, wasn’t Jesus all loving? He welcomed the thief, the leper, the prostitute, the orphan, the heretic, all the people he encountered during his time on this planet. So why do these so called devout Christians not follow in Jesus footsteps and accept all others? My name for them is hypochristians!

  17. Nancy’s comments above said it well — the Republicans claim that our government is too big and powerful and then toss that “out the window when they want to control peoples’ private lives”.

    My granddaughter’s observations when she was preparing to go to college also impressed me . She said that to her, it looks like Democrats want to include and represent everyone in government, and Republicans just want to exclude people. I think she’s got it.

  18. Sexual identiy and preference is determined by a tiny organ which lies at the top of the brain stem. That level of impact cannont be altered. That is the way LGBTQ+ is formed and entrenched. None of the LGBT+ behaviors can be changed.

  19. Just a small biology lesson – years ago some scientists changed one gene in a fruit fly and it became bisexual (heterosexual being the baseline)

    Since then we have learned that sexual identity, sexual partner preference, and various other components of sexual “identity” are determined by multiple genes, and we must also allow for epigenetic effects (changes that turn genes on and off, without there being a change in the gene itself).

    Anita Bryant and those who channel her now spout balderdash.
    But them again, that is the modus operandi of today’s GOP

  20. Excellent comment Len!

    Genetics definitely play a huge role. But, behavior can also be changed by trauma! Both are proven scientific fact…..

  21. I cannot believe how many, so-called, educated white men are so threatened by women and/or anyone from the LGBTQ+ community. These “men” are simply cowards and “must remain in control.” They can take a flying leap off the nearest mountain as far as I am concerned.

    Isn’t it a shame that, through the years, we, as a white race, have been taught to think that people who look different from us could not possibly be as intelligent as we are. What blarney.

    Frankly, I don’t care about the color of your skin, your religious or political leanings, or if you, certainly not by your own choice but by God’s intervention, if you will, are LGBTQ+, I will treat you with respect and consideration until and unless you have done something to me, personally, to cause that to change.

    I don’t remember anyone being concerned about with whom a heterosexual sleeps, and what they do together in their bedroom, so why should we be concerned about someone who is not heterosexual. They did not choose to be non-heterosexual, it just is.

    All of you religious fanatics who raise the name of Jesus all the time, you have never read anything wherein Jesus taught hate of anyone, be they poor, black, rich, or gender questioning. Jesus only offered support and understanding.

    So, please, all of you “religious white men” go away.

Comments are closed.