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Out For Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America

Out For Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America

by Dudley Clendinen

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With a New Preface Written in 2016 by Adam Nagourney

This is the definitive account of the last great struggle for equal rights in the twentieth century. From the birth of the modern gay rights movement in 1969, at the Stonewall riots in New York, through 1988, when the gay rights movement was eclipsed by the more urgent demands of AIDS activists, this is the


With a New Preface Written in 2016 by Adam Nagourney

This is the definitive account of the last great struggle for equal rights in the twentieth century. From the birth of the modern gay rights movement in 1969, at the Stonewall riots in New York, through 1988, when the gay rights movement was eclipsed by the more urgent demands of AIDS activists, this is the remarkable and until now untold story of how a largely invisible population of men and women banded together to create their place in America’s culture and government. Told through the voices of gay activists and their opponents, filled with dozens of colorful characters, Out for Good traces the emergence of gay rights movements in cities across the country and their transformation into a national force that changed the face of America forever.

Out for Good is the unforgettable chronicle of an important—and nearly lost—chapter in American history.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Shane Harrison The Atlanta Journal-Constitution What Clendinen and Nagourney have created is an invaluable document, impressively researched, remarkably well written, and groundbreaking in scope.

Doris Kearns Goodwin Out for Good is the monumental story, told with exquisite writing, vivid detail, and a grand narrative sweep, of one of the most important movements of the twentieth century.

Doug Ireland The Philadelphia Inquirer Clendinen and Nagourney have performed a valuable service for all of those who weren't around during most of the thirty years of painful but joyous struggle.

Jonathan Rauch Los Angeles Times Book Review The story...is told with political acumen, reportorial vividness, and narrative flair. [Out for Good] is a remarkable accomplishment.

David Garrow
[A] rich and valuable book....nicely captures the optimism that followed the enactment of gay rights ordinances in [several] cities in the 1970s....[C]onsistently, Out for Good portrays gay activists as their own worst enemies, with political advancement reapeatedly thwarted by unnecessarily ugly intramural politics.
New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
Two New York Times reporters on the struggle for equal rights.
David J. Garrow
...[A] rich and valuable book....nicely captures the optimism that followed the enactment of gay rights ordinances in [several] cities in the 1970s....[C]onsistently, Out for Good portrays gay activists as their own worst enemies, with political advancement reapeatedly thwarted by unnecessarily ugly intramural politics.
The New York Times Book Review
[A]n extraordinarily revealing history...Clendinen and Nagourney artfully chart the dynamic oscillation of shanging cultural and political attitudes about gay life, in which even modest victories sometimes precede devastating reactions...[The Authors] have accomplished a great deal in Out for Good. It's a riveting history that strikes at the heart of a perplexing story about the persistence of bigotry— and a 30-year effort, so far, to vanquish it.
USA Today
Kirkus Reviews
Embedded within this heavily detailed chronicle of the American gay rights movement(s) between 1969 and 1992 are openings of bright clarity onto the complex, sometimes self-divided evolution of gay and lesbian activism. Clendinen and Nagourney, both New York Times journalists, chose their subtitle well: Their book focuses on such political (not social-service or cultural) organizations and their leaders as the Gay Liberation Front, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. However, the authors' claim for their book, that it uniquely recounts the history of gay activism since 1969, is dated, in view of John Loughery's Other Side of Silence (1998), which includes within its more intellectually nuanced history of gay male identity some of the political developments described here (such as the Supreme Court case of Bowers v. Harwick, upholding state laws against "sodomy," and the countervailing passage of gay rights bills). What Clendinen and Nagourney additionally incorporate are: attention to lesbian activism and to such sometimes forgotten midwestern cities as Chicago and Minneapolis; pivotal moments in the rise of gay political consciousness, such as the first national gay fund-raising campaign (to help arson victims in New Orleans, 1973); and the dialectics of political success and failure (Anita Bryant's antigay rhetoric in Florida energized gay activism nationally). Though the lengthy documentation of personal politics within the organizations discussed is wearing, it contextualizes the tensions the authors expose, with impartial sympathy, between gay men and lesbians, blacks and whites, and conservatives and radicals withinthe gay rights movements—oppositions that do not often receive, as they do here, the candid discussion they deserve. In that regard, the chapter on Jesse Jackson's ambivalent speech to the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1983 is a highlight. Readers who can navigate the journalistic density of sometimes anecdotal fact and quotation will be rewarded with a richer sense of recent gay history.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Tiuchstone Edition
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.66(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 22


March 1977

It was such an exhilarating moment, standing in the White House driveway, talking into the microphones of network correspondents, that no one paid much attention to the questions about Anita Bryant. After three hours in the Roosevelt Room, her campaign to repeal a Dade County homosexual rights ordinance seemed distant and inconsequential. Troy Perry felt a little annoyed when a reporter asked him what Bryant would think of fourteen homosexual leaders being granted an audience in the White House: Why should Anita Bryant care about what was going on in Washington? And why should they care what she thought?

By the next afternoon, the reporter's question was answered. From Villa Verde, the thirty-three-room Spanish stucco mansion on Biscayne Bay where Bryant lived with her husband and four children, the woman known for her Florida orange juice commercials issued a statement demanding to know why the White House was "dignifying these activists for special privilege with a serious discussion on their alleged 'human rights,'" and permitting them to "pressure President Carter into endorsement of a lifestyle that is an abomination under the laws of God and man.

"What these people really want, hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that there is an acceptable alternate way of life," Anita Bryant declared after services at Northwest Baptist Church in Miami, where she taught Sunday school. "No one has a human right to corrupt our children. Prostitutes, pimps and drug pushers, like homosexuals, have civil rights, too, but they do not have the right toinfluence our children to choose their way of life. Before I yield to this insidious attack on God and his laws, and on parents and their rights to protect their children, I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before."

That statement displayed for the nation a political force that had been quietly gathering in the four months since a gay rights ordinance had appeared on the calendar of the Dade County Metro Commission. Anita Bryant had made a career of singing at conventions and selling orange juice, and she had never before shown any interest in politics. But in those four months, she had become the symbol for a political crusade, fired by religious passion and single-minded intensity. Bruce Voeller did not even recognize Bryant's name when he first read that she had forced the Dade County Metro Commission to submit the new gay rights ordinance to public referendum. But that said more about the head of the Task Force and New York than it did about Bryant and Florida. In the South, across the Bible Belt, and among the 13 million Southern Baptists who shared Anita Bryant's faith and celebrated her emerging leadership, she was nearly universally admired. Each time she closed her eyes and threw her head back to sing a hymn or a patriotic anthem — her face scrubbed, red and glowing; her black-red hair shining; her high, handsome cheekbones a reminder of the beauty queen she had once been — Bryant embodied an idealized vision of American motherhood. She was the kind of woman whose 1959 official biography reported that the nineteen-year-old Miss Oklahoma and Miss America second runner-up "eventually hopes to marry and have a family of six children." Anita Bryant was a local treasure in Miami: The premature birth of her twins was a running story in the newspapers. At Christmas, the newspapers ran a photograph of the Anita Bryant family, posed in front of the Christmas tree.

She was born in Barnsdall, Oklahoma, the daughter of an oilfield worker, and she decided to become a performer after she "met the creator of Stars, Jesus Christ Our Lord," at age eight, and He told her to become a singer. Arthur Godfrey made her famous, after his talent scouts discovered her singing on the Tulsa television stations and invited her to perform in New York. By her mid-twenties, Anita Bryant had three gold records, but even then she was more than just another popular performer. Bryant toured seven times with Bob Hope and the USO, entertaining troops at Christmas, and appeared at Billy Graham rallies in Madison Square Garden. Bryant sang at the Super Bowl, and was part of the team of network commentators at eight Orange Bowls. President Lyndon B. Johnson had her to the White House fourteen times during his five years in office. He led a standing ovation to her after she dedicated an emotional "Battle Hymn of the Republic" to the troops in Vietnam during a 1966 state dinner honoring the United States ambassador to Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge. Variety said it was the first time in memory a performer in the White House had been given a standing ovation. Anita Bryant returned the favor; she was unstinting in her support of the president's Vietnam policy, likening it, not surprisingly, to a crusade. "I feel very strongly that this is a war between atheism and God," she declared, and when Johnson died she sang "Battle Hymn of the Republic" one more time for her friend the president, at his graveside.

Anita Bryant was a registered Democrat, but both parties embraced her. In 1968 she sang "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at the Democratic convention in Chicago, and "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Republican convention in Miami. By 1977, she was best known for her employment by the Florida Citrus Commission, which pressed her smile and voice into the service of selling Florida orange juice. "Come to the Florida sunshine tree! Florida sunshine naturally!" she'd sing, proclaiming, "A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine." The citrus commission paid her $100,000 a year. Her total annual income was four times that, from appearances at religious conferences and corporate conventions. She was paid $7,500 a night at the conventions, and had made $700,000 in 1976, the Bicentennial year, because, according to her agent, Dick Shack, Bob Green had encouraged his popular wife to accept every one of those $7,500 invitations.

There had not been much interest in politics among Miami's sizable homosexual community, either, at least until the summer of 1976, when Jack Campbell, forty-five years old, assembled a group of gay men and lesbians in his home in Coconut Grove to talk about creating a gay rights lobbying organization. Campbell, a former president of the University of Michigan Young Democrats, joined the Cleveland Mattachine Society in the mid-1960s, and soon put his own singular stamp on the movement. In 1965 he and a group of investors paid $15,000 for an out-of-business sauna in downtown Cleveland. He turned it into a homosexual bathhouse, and business was so good he opened up a second one within the year. The Club Baths were a source of an enormous personal fortune but, Campbell argued, they were also an expression of gay and sexual liberation. His sizable contributions earned him a seat on the National Gay Task Force board, where Campbell would make a point of sitting next to Troy Perry at its meetings. Perry would introduce himself as the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, where "we have a hundred churches and a total of 30,000 members." And Jack Campbell would always follow the same way: "Well, although we only have thirty churches, we have 300,000 members."

The Club Miami, which he opened in 1970, was the twentieth in what would become a forty-two-bathhouse empire. Campbell was openly gay in everything he did, which was unusual in Miami then. He ran for Miami City Commission in 1975, and he campaigned against vestigial laws that prohibited homosexuals from working in or owning bars. In the midst of the race, the city commission abolished the ordinance, leaving Campbell without an issue, and he finished a distant second in a field of four. The next year he donated $1,800 to the Carter campaign and was rewarded with an invitation to the inauguration. He placed the souvenirs from that trip — a silver-plated peanut and a 1977 inaugural booklet — on display at his home.

The other key person at Jack Campbell's home that day was Robert Kunst, a slick, bearded product of the anti-war and civil rights movements, a chatty bantam rooster with brown eyes. Kunst, thirty-four, had sold encyclopedias door-to-door in Brooklyn and Queens and then in Boston, before fleeing the northeast winters for Florida. He sold program ads for the Miami Toros, a soccer team, and campaigned for Benjamin Spock's presidential campaign of 1972. Kunst was the kind of person who enjoyed seeing his name in the newspapers, and he had become known in Miami for founding the Transperience Center, four rooms over a marine supply shop in Coconut Grove that offered workshops on bisexuality. Kunst believed everyone was a bisexual, and those workshops involved small groups of men and women who stripped and spent three hours, eyes shut, touching their partners' bodies, from head to genitalia to toes. By the end, Kunst reported, no one could tell the difference between the touch of a male or female hand, and the resulting high was "better than a quaalude."

Campbell called the meeting at his concrete-block house, a low-slung bachelor pad behind a green hedge in the flowering, garden-like checkerboard of Coconut Grove, a liberal, bohemian collection of cottages and old estates, pastel-colored homes with pools and a discreet colony of well-to-do homosexuals, like Campbell. The assembly at Campbell's house was an unlikely mix, including members of a gay motorcycle group, the Thebans, Gay Catholics and the lesbian caucus of the Miami chapter of NOW. An election was coming up, and the organization formed at Campbell's house that day — the Dade County Coalition for the Humanistic Rights of Gays — decided to support candidates who supported gay rights. It mailed two hundred questionnaires; sixty-five candidates responded, and forty-nine provided answers that earned the new group's endorsement. The coalition's resulting support — it distributed leaflets to gay bars and baths, and provided donations and volunteers — was discreet, designed to win attention among homosexuals without alerting the community at large. On election day, forty-four of its candidates won.

Within weeks of the elections, the coalition asked one of those candidates, Ruth Shack, to introduce at the Dade County Metro Commission an amendment to the civil rights ordinance to bar discrimination based on "affectional or sexual preference" in housing, public accommodations and employment. Shack was a school board administrator making her first run for public office. She had worked in the civil rights movement, and then the women's rights movement, so the gay rights movement seemed a natural next step. She could not imagine how anyone could quarrel with the notion that homosexuals had the same right to a job or a home as anyone else. In December, the Metro Commission took the first step toward adopting Shack's ordinance, voting 9-0 to schedule a public hearing the following month. Barring any unexpected complications, it would become law upon second reading and passage.

Robert Brake, a fifty-one-year-old lawyer, read about the Shack ordinance in local newspapers at the end of 1976. Brake, a Roman Catholic who went to church every Sunday and sent his children to Catholic schools, never wavered in his devotion, so when his Protestant friends related their "born-again" experiences to him, Brake would look at them quizzically: Why would anyone need to be born again? Brake, a conservative Democrat, had been among the first to enlist in the fight against abortion rights, even before Roe v. Wade. Homosexual rights was an issue he had never really considered. When he served in the Judge Advocate's Office in the air force during the Korean War, Brake had encountered a few soldiers who disclosed to him they were homosexual, and he always responded with the same advice: "Don't tell anybody. You don't know my sexual tastes and I don't know yours." He didn't want to know what they did in their off-hours. That always struck him as the way homosexuality should be handled — by "indirect social control," as he liked to put it.

Brake had spent two years on the Dade County Metro Commission, so he understood its procedures, and kept close track of everything it did. Shack's ordinance would, he determined, apply to parochial schools in Dade County, and it could force schools like St. Theresa's, where two of his four children studied, to hire open homosexuals. Everything about the law bothered Brake: the way he thought it threatened his family, its explicit endorsement of a practice he found immoral, the way he believed it would force him to associate with people he did not wish to know. The bill had passed its first hurdle by a 9-0 vote; clearly, homosexuals had become a force to contend with. But this was not a lost cause: Brake knew the county charter, and he knew there was a way to force the commissioners to submit their vote to the electorate. It was a matter of gathering names on petitions.

Anita Bryant learned of the proposed ordinance from her pastor, the Reverend William F. Chapman of the Northwest Baptist Church, who came to her home one afternoon to talk about this worrisome development. Chapman said the bill would force parochial schools to hire practicing homosexuals — schools like the Northwest Christian Academy in North Miami, which all four of Bryant's children attended. Bryant had never taken too much of an interest in local elections, but had made a small exception in one race that year: The wife of her talent agent had been a candidate for the Metro Commission, and Bryant had recorded a radio commercial on her behalf and contributed $1,000 to her campaign. Bryant's agent was Dick Shack and his wife was Ruth Shack, and Anita Bryant realized that afternoon that she had lent her name and money to the woman who was leading the fight for gay rights in Dade County. Chapman wanted the religious community to rise against the bill and told Bryant she was the person to lead the crusade. You have a "mother's heart," Chapman said, as a warm breeze blew in off the bay, "and it takes a mother to do this."

At first, Anita Bryant wrote a letter. "If this ordinance amendment is allowed to become law," Bryant argued to the Metro Commission, "you will in fact be infringing upon my rights or rather discriminating against me as a citizen and a mother to teach my children and set examples and to point to others as examples of God's moral codes as stated in the Holy Scriptures." She called Ruth Shack, imploring her to withdraw her bill, which she said had embarrassed her at Northwest Baptist. Shack told her husband's client that the ordinance was nothing more than an attempt to guarantee equal rights for all people, adding: "The first thing any politician does upon getting into office is disappoint." Bryant ended the conversation by saying she was praying for Ruth Shack, and warned that she was condemning herself to damnation with this bill. Bryant had intended to keep her involvement low-profile. But she changed her mind before the hearing and decided to become a leader of the campaign. The conversion came, Bryant later explained, as she was driving in Miami with her nine-year-old daughter and they came upon a three-car accident at 136th Street. Had they been there moments earlier, Bryant said, they might have perished, and she thanked God for sparing them. It was then, Anita Bryant said, that her daughter asked: "Mommy, if God can help you like this, can't he help you in the Metro Commission?" Anita Bryant said she burst into tears. "Yes, Barbara, he can," she said, and decided to accept the Reverend Chapman's calling. That story was embraced by Anita Bryant's supporters as nothing short of a message from God, proof that their campaign was divinely inspired. Bryant's opponents saw her entry into the fight as part of a calculated plan by the singer and her husband to promote her career, inspired by a quest for more bookings rather than by a vision taken from a chance car wreck. Whatever her motivation, by the time the Metro Commission gathered for its public hearing at the Dade County Courthouse on January 18, 1977, Bryant was in the audience with a Bible and a speech. The hearing room was filled to capacity a half hour before the commissioners took their seats; people, bused in by their local parishes, were three and four deep against the wall. There were a hundred people outside, waving placards:

"God says NO: Who are you to say Different?"

"Protect our Children: Don't Legislate Morality in Dade County."

Bob Kunst was completely unprepared for this show of force. The front row of the courthouse was the only place to sit and he found himself seated at Anita Bryant's elbow. When Ruth Shack arrived, walking up the steps to the 1920s-style courthouse, she heard curses and hoots from the churchgoers assembled outside in the unseasonably cold air. Each side was limited to forty-five minutes of debate. During those ninety minutes eight different books of the Bible were quoted on both sides of the argument. "As an entertainer, I have worked with homosexuals all my life, and my attitude has been live and let live," Bryant said. "But now I believe it's time to recognize the rights of the overwhelming number of Dade County constituents." There were shouts of "Amen!" from the audience. The gay rights ordinance had passed unanimously on first reading in December. It passed again the second time, but by a 5-3 margin. The fundamentalists had changed a few votes, but not enough to overturn the decision. "We are not going to take this sitting down," Bryant declared as the commissioners hurried from the room. "The ordinance condones immorality and discriminates against my children's rights to grow up in a healthy, decent community."

Even before the vote, Robert Brake had been prepared to gather the ten thousand signatures needed to force a referendum. He had expected to do it alone, but after hearing Bryant speak, he knew he wouldn't have to. He walked across the room, introduced himself to Bryant and asked if she would head his petition drive. She looked at her husband, Bob Green, and then at her pastor, Bill Chapman. Both nodded yes.

Villa Verde had its own waterfall and fountains, and a private altar on the second floor of the mansion where Anita Bryant went to pray. It also had a pool, a sunken heart-shaped double Jacuzzi, a tropical garden with banyan trees, a goldfish pond and a dock for the family boat, Sea Sharp, as well as a replica of the Anita Bryant bust that was in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Most of the dozen people who showed up for the first organizing meeting of Save Our Children, Inc., had never experienced such opulence before, save for the glimpses of the celebrity mansions on Key Biscayne that could be caught from the road across the bay. Robert Brake came expecting nothing more from Bryant than the use of her name, and was immediately struck by her devotion to the fight. Bob Green cut a less impressive figure that day. Green and Bryant had met when she came to perform in 1959 in Miami Beach, where he was a disc jockey, one of the first to play the new rock and roll format. She was taken with this man who drove a white Thunderbird with his name painted on the side, who wore silk suits and always seemed to have a pretty woman on his arm. Anita Bryant was certain of her attraction to him — he looked like Robert Redford, she later said — and he was the first man she went to bed with, by her account. But she worried he was not devout enough. The night before their wedding in Oklahoma in 1960, Bryant insisted that her fiancé stay up to pray for salvation. Green began to describe himself as born-again after that night, and he converted from Lutheran to Baptist. Still, it was his interest in Miss Oklahoma that led him to prayer rather than any newfound spirituality, and now, seventeen years later, as he surveyed the religious leaders in their home, Green knew that he was out of place in this room. Some of the people there that day were suspicious of Green, noting that the publicity from a referendum would surely help them win religious bookings. Bob Green later said he had some doubts about the very cause that supposedly united them: He agreed that homosexuality was immoral, but not any more or less immoral than, say, adultery. He said none of that then, though. Anita Bryant was like a freight train once she set her mind on an issue, he liked to say: single-minded and obsessed. When she told him that "God spoke to my heart," Green knew there was nothing that would stop her.

It would prove to be a remarkable assembly: clerics and professional conservative political operatives, joined by their shared opposition to homosexual rights. There were representatives from major religious denominations in Dade County: Catholics, Baptists, Orthodox Jews, Spanish Presbyterians and the Greek Orthodox Church. And there were political professionals like Mike Thompson, a thirty-seven-year-old advertising executive and Republican state committeeman. Thompson was chairman of the Florida Conservative Union, and had been a GOP convention delegate for Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1976. He lived next door to Robert Brake, and Brake had decided that the religious devotion of the fundamentalists and Anita Bryant would get them only so far. Thompson knew how to handle reporters, how to construct a campaign message, how to make an advertisement, and Brake had invited him to join the campaign. A campaign like this, Thompson thought, would surely fail if its leaders did not take direction from someone with his experience. As the group quibbled line by line over the statement Anita Bryant would make announcing the petition drive, Thompson suggested that he be allowed to write it alone. He quickly scribbled a few paragraphs and handed them to Bryant, who read them with a burst of emotion that left no doubt in Thompson's mind about the talent of the Save Our Children spokeswoman. Afterward Bryant said to Thompson: "Stand up. I want to hug you." She went over, embraced him and kissed him on the cheek.

"You kiss real good for a girl!" Thompson said. Anita Bryant froze for a minute, then realized it was a joke. Everyone laughed.

Save Our Children needed a campaign that, as Thompson and Brake described it that day, was honest but brutal. It would, Brake said, be a "dignified campaign," that did not engage in name-calling, but that would address the issues forcefully. There was no time for subtlety. So when Bryant appeared before the press a few days later to read the words Thompson had written for her, there was a new crispness to the group's attacks. Bryant, surrounded by clerical leaders, stood under a banner that read, "Save our Children from Homosexuals," inviting people to "sign petitions here to repeal Metro's Gay Blunder."

"The homosexual recruiters of Dade County already have begun their campaign," she said, displaying a piece of literature she claimed had been recovered from one of the local high schools. Homosexuals, she said, are "trying to recruit our children to homosexuality."

Six weeks later Save Our Children submitted its petitions to the Dade County Elections Department. Ten thousand names were needed. By their count, the coalition forces had gathered 64,304, so many signatures that county officials stopped counting at number 13,457. The Metro Commission, in a 6-3 vote, put the referendum on the ballot in a special election called for June 7, 1977. "By its action today, the commission, for better or worse, has made Dade County a national battleground in the fight for civil rights of parents and their children," Bryant said. "Homosexual acts are not only illegal, they are immoral. And through the power of the ballot box, I believe the parents and the straight-thinking normal majority will soundly reject the attempt to legitimize homosexuals and their recruitment plans for our children.

"We shall not let the nation down."

Jack Campbell liked to boast that Miami Beach was a gay playground — "beaches, bushes, fun, sand, sex" and, of course, his own very popular gay bathhouse. But for all Miami's gay pleasures, there wasn't much in the way of gay politics. Ruth Shack realized that at the public hearing for her ordinance in January. As she watched preacher after preacher denounce the bill, she couldn't understand why the local gay community hadn't found its own cleric or local civil rights leaders to speak for the bill. There was little choice but to turn outside for help now. The National Gay Task Force seemed the obvious place, but its leaders were not inclined to make this fight; that, Ron Gold argued, could elevate a passing local storm into a national referendum on gay rights. The Task Force was sanguine in its assessment of the Dade County referendum and scornful of its spokeswoman. "Bryant is really the perfect opponent," it said in an April 1977 mailing to its members. "Her national prominence...insures national news coverage for developments in the Dade County struggle, while the feebleness of her arguments and the embarrassing backwardness of her stance both makes her attacks easier to counteract and tends to generate 'liberal' backlash in our favor. Her 'Save our Children' campaign vividly demonstrates just why gay rights laws are needed — in order to protect our people against the sort of ignorant, irrational, unjustifiable prejudice typified by Anita Bryant. We can make her rantings work for us just as Sheriff Bull Connor's cattle prods and police dogs ultimately aided desegregation in the South."

But in California, an alarmed David Goodstein had a different view. Like it or not, this was a national battle, he said, and Anita Bryant was anything but "the perfect opponent" the Task Force perceived. The homosexual community needed to dispatch all of its resources to help the besieged leaders of Dade County. "Save Us from the Anita Nightmare" read the cover of the April 20 Advocate. "If the orange juice cow and her bigoted cohorts have their way in Dade County," Goodstein wrote, "you can rest assured they'll bring their hate crusade to your front door in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago or wherever you think you're living in relative safety." He added: "If Hitler had been stopped in Czechoslovakia, World War II would not have occurred. The analogy is exact.

"At best, her campaign is a publicity stunt for her...sagging career," Goodstein said. "At worst, it is the beginning of an organized conspiracy to turn us into America's scapegoats. Some of you may think you're safe in your closets. You are not." Goodstein and Jack Campbell agreed there was a need to import professional political consultants into Dade County, ideally campaign operatives who were openly homosexual. In the spring of 1977, there were probably just two people in the country who fit that description: Ethan Geto of New York, now open about his homosexuality, and Jim Foster, now one of the most powerful political organizers in San Francisco, gay or straight.

Geto and Foster arrived in Florida seven weeks before the vote. The Dade County referendum was not without precedent: In May 1974 voters in Boulder, Colorado, had overturned a gay rights ordinance 13,107 to 7,438, and recalled the councilman who had sponsored it. But that vote had been barely noticed outside the West. By contrast, the Dade County referendum was exploding into a national story. "Anita Bryant is a fine Christian lady," Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina said as Geto and Foster arrived in Florida. "She is fighting for decency and morality." A confident Bryant was already talking about bringing her crusade to Congress and to other states. If Anita Bryant wins, Elaine Noble said, "it will not be long before they turn up in California, New York and Massachusetts trying to do similar things."

The stakes could hardly have been higher, and the situation that Geto and Foster found in Florida could hardly have been bleaker. Save Our Children, Inc. had evolved into a political juggernaut, with its emotional rallying cry and a network of churches and synagogues that could rival any party machine in the country. By contrast, Miami's homosexual community was unsophisticated and fragmented. There was no campaign plan, no organization, no strategy. The Dade County Coalition for the Humanistic Rights of Gays had been paralyzed by a dispute over whether it should align itself with the national orange juice boycott that had been launched to punish Anita Bryant. For homosexuals outside Florida, this was an obvious tactic. But a boycott was certain to provoke a backlash in Florida, and Campbell opposed it. Bob Kunst had broken off from the coalition and was now promoting the boycott on his own. But it was Kunst, as much a sexual liberationist as a gay liberationist, to whom newspaper reporters turned when they needed a quote, as Geto and Foster soon realized — to their dismay. Geto would talk about human rights, while Kunst would talk provocatively about oral and anal sex, activities he suggested were enjoyed equally by heterosexuals and homosexuals. Gay people were much more psychologically healthy than heterosexuals, Kunst proclaimed in one interview. The gay rights activists were only trying to "put the community on the couch" and force it to deal with its sexual hang-ups. "Am I a role model?" Kunst said to a reporter during the campaign. "Sure. I'm an absolutely positive role model." Geto tried to tone Kunst down. "Bob, this is counterproductive," Geto told him. "People can't process this, people can't understand it, it's too confrontational, it's scaring them, it's easy for Anita Bryant to say gays are militant." Kunst ignored him, as Geto discovered when Governor Reubin Askew, a Democrat, announced his support for Bryant. "If I were in Miami," the governor said from Tallahassee, "I would have no difficulty in voting to repeal that ordinance. I would not want a known homosexual teaching my children." Geto offered reporters a carefully considered response to Askew, asserting it was dangerous when "someone in your position arbitrarily decides who in this society should have their human rights and who in the country should be the victims of bigotry." Bob Kunst simply blasted the governor of Florida as "sexually insecure," which was the quote that made it into the newspapers the next day.

Geto and Foster had twenty-five years of professional political experience between them. Jim Foster had worked in the presidential campaigns of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter, and the San Francisco campaigns of George Moscone, Dianne Feinstein and Richard Hongisto. Geto had worked for some of the best-known liberal Democrats of the 1970s: McGovern, Hubert Humphrey and Birch Bayh. Foster and Geto had seven weeks to design, finance and launch a campaign against an opposition which seemed to have the winds of victory at its back. To complicate matters, the idea of bringing in two out-of-towners was stirring new tensions among the activists already there, and provided ammunition to the opponents, who began referring to them as carpetbaggers. Geto made no effort to smooth over bruised feelings. He pushed people he considered incompetent off the coalition's executive board and forced the Floridians to change the name of the organization, the Dade County Coalition for the Humanistic Rights of Gays, to the Dade County Coalition for Human Rights. The word "humanistic" was pretentious, the New York consultant said, and better that the word "gay" not be in the name. Geto could no

Meet the Author

Dudley Clendinen (1944–2012) wrote for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and many other publications. He was the editor of a book of essays, The Prevailing South; author of A Place Called Canterbury; and author of the text of a book of photographs, Homeless in America.

Adam Nagourney has been a reporter for The New York Times since 1996. He served as the newspaper’s chief political correspondent from 2002 to 2010, and is currently the chief of its Los Angeles Bureau. He lives in Los Angeles.

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