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Today In Gay History October 14: National March on Washington, GMHC, and Anita Bryant Gets Pied

National March on Washington 1979

1930: 21-year-old Ethel Merman makes a name for herself after belting out I’ve Got Rhythm in the Broadway musical Girl Crazy.

1977: In one of the most iconic visual moments in LGBT history “Christian” anti-gay bigot Anita Bryant gets a pie thrown in her face.

After leading a successful, hate fueled campaign to revoke Miami’s anti-discrimination ordinance earlier that summer ex-beauty queen, singer, Florida orange juice shill and anti-gay activist Anita Bryant and her husband, Bob Green, took their show on the road to repeal other local anti-discrimination ordinances in St. Paul, MN.

Bryant 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.  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. All America and all the world will hear what the people have said, and with God’s continued help we will prevail in our fight to repeal similar laws throughout the nation.

Thom Higgins of Minneapolis wasn’t going to stand for it and caught up with Bryant and her husband at a press conference in Des Moines. Iowa.  It was about at that point, with television cameras rolling, Higgins threw a pie directly into her face. Stunned at first, Bryant tried to make light of it by saying “At least it was a fruit pie.” At Green’s suggestion, Bryant began praying for God to forgive the activist’s “deviant lifestyle” before bursting into tears. Green urged that no one retaliate against Higgins, but later in the parking lot Green caught up with the protesters and threw a reserve banana cream pie at them.

After the “pieing incident” the Florida orange juice had become more prominent and it was supported by many celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Paul Williams, John Waters, Carroll O’Connor, Mary Tyler Moore and Jane Fonda.

The fallout from the gay community and it’s supporters ruined Bryant. Her contract with the Florida Citrus Commission was allowed to lapse in 1979 because of the controversy, her marriage to her first husband Bob Green failed , and in 1980 she divorced him, citing emotional abusiveness and latent suicidal thoughts. Even the fundamentalist audiences and venues shunned her after her divorce as she was no longer invited to appear at their events and she lost another major source of income. With her four children, Bryant moved from Miami to Selma, Alabama, and later to Atlanta, Georgia where she still lives today.

In June of 2010 smelling the money that the anti-gay groups of today make and pay Bryant returned to her roots and appeared at an anti-gay, anti atheist, and anti muslim event sponsored by “Reclaiming America For Christ”

Lifetime gay activist Thom Higgins passed away on November 10, 1994, in St. Paul, Minnesota a true gay hero of that era.

1979: The first National March on Washington for Gay & Lesbian Rights was held.  An estimated  125,000+ gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people and straight allies to demand equal civil rights and urge the passage of protective civil rights legislation.  Speakers at  the main rally included Harry Britt, Charlotte Bunch, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, Flo Kennedy, Morris Kight, Audre Lorde, Leonard Matlovich, andFirst PFLAG President Adele Starr.

The closing paragraph of the welcome program of the march, written by Allen Young (writer).

“Today in the capital of America, we are all here, the almost liberated and the slightly repressed; the butch, the femme and everything in-between; the androgynous; the monogamous and the promiscuous; the masturbators and the fellators and the tribadists; men in dresses and women in neckties; those who bite and those who cuddle; celebates[sic] and pederasts; diesel dykes and nelly queens; amazons and size queens, Yellow, Black, Brown, White, and Red; the shorthaired and the long, the fat and the thin; the nude and the prude; the beauties and the beasts; the studs and the duds; the communes, the couples, and the singles; pubescents and the octogenarians. Yes, we are all here! We are everywhere! Welcome to the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights!”

1987:  The US Congress voted in favor of banning federal funding for AIDS education organizations that “promote homosexuality.”  Under the Reagan administration (No shock there). The U.S. Senate voted 94-2 on an an amendment proposed by Sen. Jesse Helms to restrict federal funds for AIDS education to materials stressing sexual abstinence and which did not “promote homosexuality.” Citing comic books produced by the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York — material that had not been paid for by federal funds — Helms complained, “If the American people saw these books, they would be on the verge of revolt.” He claimed the books showed “graphic detail of a sexual encounter between two homosexual men. The comic books do not encourage a change in that perverted behavior. In fact, the comic books promote sodomy.” 

1990: Leonard Bernstein dies at the age of 72.

1996:  Madonna gives birth to her first child, Lourdes Ciccone Leon.  The father, Carlos Leon, a personal trainer, is eight years younger than Madonna.

1999: California state Senator Pete Knight, who sponsored a ballot initiative banning same sex marriages in California, is denounced in the Los Angeles Times by his gay son. He questioned his father’s defense of family values because his father rejected him when he came out.

2006: Gerry Studds , dies in Boston, at age 69, several days after suffering a pulmonary embolism. Studds was the first openly gay member of Congress.  Studds was re-elected to the House more than 8 times and fought for many issues, including environmental and maritime issues, same-sex marriageAIDS funding, and civil rights, particularly for gays and lesbians.

Although Gerry Studds and partner Dean T. Hara (his companion since 1991) were married in Boston on May 24, 2004, one week after same-sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts. ue to the federal ban on same-sex marriage, Hara was not eligible, upon Studds’ death, to receive the pension provided to surviving spouses of former members of Congress. Hara later joined a federal lawsuit, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, that successfully challenged the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.


Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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