Charles Watson


Anita Bryant was a catalyst for the gay community in the late 1970s

Anita Bryant was a conservative zealot and one-hit-wonder, Anita Bryant (Paper Roses). She is pictured here after she was hit in the face with a pie in the middle of televised press conference. She later said, "At least it was fruit pie."

I remember GAA President, Jim Zais, telling me that Bryant saved the gay rights movement. Until she launched her "Save Our Children" campaign in Florida, the movement seemed to be dying out; as gay men were most interested in disco not politics. Anita Bryant changed all of that; bringing thousands of new recruits into the fight for GLBT rights... including me.

When it was announced that she would be appearing at a convention of the National Association of Religious Broadcasters in January 1978 (in Dupont Circle no less) it was decided that a protest should be held.

The night was bitter cold but the crowd was substantial and mostly young. The event was a candlelight march from Dupont Circle up Connecticut Avenue and around the Hilton.

I had a task to perform: to stand on the sidewalk and count the crowd as it walked past. The Reason for this was the distrust of crowd estimates provided by the National Park Service for progressive events (Dupont Circle is a federal park). The Park Services estimated the crowd size that night at 2,000 people, my count was just a few dozen short of 5,000. People were returning down the hill on the far side of the street while the final marchers were starting up. So let the record stand corrected.


UPI article on the Anita Bryan protest in Washington, DC

(Also, the record should show the the GAA president's name was Mayo Lee, not Mao Lee, as this story from UPI had it.)

The most amusing part of the night to me was when an older man and his wife came out of a restaurant on Connecticut Avenue and saw all the people going by holding candles. He turned to his wife and asked what what was going on. She replied "It's the homosexuals. They are holding a protest." He said "It can't be. There aren't that many of them."