Long lost photos of Harvey Milk debating, Republican state Sen. John Briggs of Orange County, on Sept. 15, 1978 at Northgate High School over the Briggs Initiative — a state proposition that would have made it mandatory for school boards to fire openly gay and lesbian teachers have been unearthed.
Also called California Proposition 6 the initiative was on the California State ballot on November 7, 1978 The Briggs Initiative was the first failure in a movement that started with the successful campaign headed by Anita Bryant and her organization Save Our Children in Dade County, Florida, to repeal a local gay rights ordinance.
At the debate Harvey Milk dismantled each of Briggs’ arguments with facts and shamed the senator for his most archaic talking points.
You normal people — who have a family, who have children — do you want a sexually disoriented person teaching your children?” Briggs asked, to hisses and boos from the audience..
Milk countered: “Child molesters are heterosexual, rapists are heterosexual. … Most murderers are heterosexual. Do you want those people teaching your children? You’re lying through your teeth and you know it.”
At one point, Milk asked Briggs who should be allowed to counsel a gay boy at a public high school such as Northgate.
“I would like him to go to a preacher,” Briggs responded, “or a pastor or a psychologist who could lead him out of that.”
Chronicle photographer John Storey who attended the event took dozens of pictures that were never published.
The recently discovered images, reveal a dramatic and oddly staged event. Milk and Briggs sat on school-issued chairs in the middle of the Northgate High basketball court, facing a handful of media members. The audience, made up of community members young and old, sat in the bleachers on the side.
The Briggs Initiative was soundly defeated on Nov. 7, 1978, losing by more than a million votes.
California’s Proposition 6 was an initiative on the California State ballot on November 7, 1978. More commonly known as The Briggs Initiative, sponsored by John Briggs, a conservative state legislator from Orange County. The failed initiative would have banned gays and lesbians, and possibly anyone who supported gay rights, from working in California’s public schools.
The Briggs Initiative came on the heels of successful anti-gay campaign headed by Anita Bryant and her organization Save Our Children in Dade County, Florida, to repeal it’s local gay rights ordinance.
The initiative provided that a public school teacher, teacher’s aide, administrator, or counselor could be fired if the employee was found to have engaged in either (1) “public homosexual activity,” which the initiative defined as an act of homosexual sex which was “not discreet and not practiced in private, whether or not such act, at the time of its commission, constituted a crime,” or (2) “public homosexual conduct,” which the initiative defined as “the advocating, soliciting, imposing, encouraging or promoting of private or public homosexual activity directed at, or likely to come to the attention of, schoolchildren and/or other employees.”
The employee would be terminated if the school board, after a hearing, determined by a preponderance of the evidence that the employee had engaged in “public homosexual activity” or “public homosexual conduct” and “that said activity or conduct render[ed] the employee unfit for service. The factors that the board would consider in the determination of “unfitness for service” would “include, but not be limited to: (1) the likelihood that the activity or conduct may adversely affect students or other employees; (2) the proximity or remoteness in time or location of the conduct to the employee’s responsibilities; (3) the extenuating or aggravating circumstances which, in the judgment of the board, must be examined in weighing the evidence; and (4) whether the conduct included acts, words or deeds, of a continuing or comprehensive nature which would tend to encourage, promote or dispose schoolchildren toward private or public homosexual activity or private or public homosexual conduct.”
The initiative further provided that a person could not be hired as a public school teacher, teacher’s aide, administrator, or counselor if the person had “engaged in public homosexual activity or public homosexual conduct should the board determine that said activity or conduct render[ed] the person unfit for service
San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk along with a coalition of gay and lesbian activists including including Sally Gearhart,Bill Kraus, Tom Ammiano, and Hank Wilson mobilized under the slogan “Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!” and worked fiercely to defeat the initiative. Gay men and lesbians went door to door in their cities and towns across the state to fight and to talk about the harm the initiative would cause.
In the beginning of September, the ballot measure was ahead in public-opinion polls, with about 61% of voters supporting it while 31% opposed it. The movement against it initially succeeded little in shifting public opinion, even though major organizations and ecclesiastical groups opposed it.
A diverse group of politicians opposed the bill including Jerry Brown, Gerald Ford, then-president Jimmy Carter who publicly opposed the bill, citing its potential infringement on individual rights.
Reagan’s November 1 editorial stated, in part, “Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.”
It is not known if Carter’s or Reagan’s involvement is what helped sway the final vote but the Briggs Initiative was defeated by over a million votes on November 7, 1978.
Briggs’s own Orange County, a conservative stronghold voted against the initiative.
In 2008 (the same year MILK came out and in which he was featured) Briggs stated he was not an “intolerant person.” He stated that he continued to regard singer Anita Bryant as “a hero,” but he also said that, “with the passage of over thirty years, America has changed — including me. Briggs went on to say that he and his wife “not only stood for our principles, but fought for principles as we then saw them.” But he also said that the 1970’s and 1980’s were “a much different America,” in which “President Reagan and the country shamefully neglected the AIDS epidemic causing the deaths of thousands.”
Below see long lost photos of Harvey Milk debating, Republican state Sen. John Briggs of Orange County, on Sept. 15, 1978, at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek. over the Briggs Initiative
Today marks one of the most iconic moments in gay history when a gay male activist threw a pie in the face of one of the most evil homophobes in America, Anita Bryant.
On October 14, 1977, at press conference in Des Moines, Iowa, while reporters were questioning Bryant about her national crusade against homosexuals, gay rights activist Tom Higgins threw a pie in Bryant’s face, which caused Bryant to comment “At least it was a fruit pie” before praying for Higgins and breaking down in tears.
Bryant an American singer, former beauty queen, and pitch-woman for companies like Coke and Florida Orange Juice started the venomous ‘Save Our Children’ campaign against homosexuals in Dade County, Florida which spread throughout the nation and led to an upswing in violent attacks, including murder, against gay men and resulted in numerous cities denying or retracting gay and lesbian civil rights ordinances
In 1977 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.” She also added that “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.
On June 7, 1977, Bryant’s campaign led to a repeal of the anti-discrimination ordinance in Dade County, FL by a margin of 69 to 31 percent. The gay community retaliated against Bryant by organizing a boycott of Florida orange juice which she was a spokeswoman for. Gay bars all over North America took screwdrivers off their drink menus and replaced them with the “Anita Bryant”, which was made with vodka and apple juice. Sales and proceeds went to gay civil rights activists and organizations to help fund their fight against Bryant and her campaign.
Bryant led several more campaigns around the country to repeal local anti-discrimination ordinances including St. Paul, Minnesota; Wichita, Kansas; and Eugene, Oregon. Her success led to an effort to pass the Briggs Initiative in California which would have made pro or neutral statements regarding homosexuals or homosexuality by any public school employee cause for dismissal. Grass-roots liberal organizations, chiefly in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area thanks to Harvey Milk, sprang up to defeat the initiative.
After the “pieing incident” the Florida orange juice boycott 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 at that time, 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 of the anti-LGBT groups of today Bryant returned to her roots and appeared at an anti-gay, anti atheist, and anti Muslim event sponsored by “Reclaiming America For Christ”
The unsung hero who threw the infamous pie, lifetime gay activist Thom Higgins was a founding member and officer of several gay organizations, including FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression), The Gay Imperative, and the Church of the Chosen People, a gay pagan religion established in 1975. He was also a member of Target City Coalition and the Cuban Refugee Task Force of Positively Gay.
Thom Higgins passed away November 10, 1994, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Ashley Judd and Neil Patrick Harris have been cast for the title roles in “Anita,” a biopic on Anita Bryant, a former TV pitchwoman who lead her “Save The Children” campaign against Florida’s anti-discrimination ordinances and in the process lit a fire under the gay rights movement which would destroy her marriage and her career.
Chad Hodge, the man behind TNT series ‘Good Behavior’, will write and direct the film which will be produced by Howard Rosenman and Darren Star, Variety reported.
In the film, Harris plays the role of Hodge, who spent significant time with Bryant in her Oklahoma home while researching the history.
“As a gay man and a writer who likes to explore complex, messy characters” said Hodge. “I’ve always thought about Anita Bryant. How could this celebrity who espoused Christian goodness and orange juice through song suddenly use those platforms to go on a nationwide anti-gay crusade and overturn gay rights laws?”
Principal photography will start in September. Tim Duffy will also produce. Michael W. Gray will exec produce.
Save Our Children, Inc. was a political coalition formed in 1977 in Miami, Florida to overturn a recently legislated county ordinance that banned discrimination in areas of housing, employment, and public accommodation based on sexual orientation. The coalition was publicly headed by celebrity singer Anita Bryant, who claimed the ordinance discriminated against her right to teach her children biblical morality. It was a well-organized campaign that initiated a bitter political fight between unprepared gay activists and highly motivated Christian fundamentalists. When the repeal of the ordinance went to a vote, it attracted the largest response of any special election in Dade County’s history, passing by 70%. Save Our Children was the first organized opposition to the gay rights movement, whose beginnings were traced to the Stonewall riots in 1969. The defeat of the ordinance encouraged groups in other cities to attempt to overturn similar laws. In the next year voters in St. Paul, Minnesota, Wichita, Kansas, and Eugene, Oregon overturned ordinances in those cities, sharing many of the same campaign strategies that were used in Miami. Save Our Children was also involved in Seattle, Washington, where they were unsuccessful, and heavily influenced Proposition 6—a proposed state law in California that would have made the firing of openly gay public school employees mandatory—that was rejected by California voters in 1978.
This video features gay rights activists Bob Kunst, Leonard Matlovich, Jack Campbell, Ruth Shack & Melodie Moorehead
Decades later, divorced and with a string of bankruptcies in her wake Bryant will always be remembered as the hateful bitch that she was and still is to this day.
April 28 1977 – Florida Governor Reubin Askew asks Miami voters to rescind a recently passed ray rights ordinance saying, “I would not want a known homosexual teaching my children. Askew was an ally of Florida Orange Juice spokesperson Anita Bryant, who conducted an anti-gay crusade and signed legislation prohibiting any gay or lesbians in Florida from adopting children.
April 28th, 1990 – Over 1000 people attend Queer Nation’s first major demonstration. Queer Nation founded by AIDS activists from ACT UP mobilized over a 1000 protesters in a matter of hours outside Uncle Charlie’s Downtown in NYC responding to pipe bomb which exploded at about 12:10 A.M injuring 3 men in the very popular Greenwich Village gay bar and marched their way to the NYPD’s 6th Precinct, blocking traffic.
Five years later in 1995 it was discovered that an extremist radical Muslim terrorist ring led by El Sayyid Nosair who was convicted of involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was responsible for the pipe bomb attack
April 29, 1933 – Singer Rod McKuen is born in Oakland, California. His “new age” songs made him a celebrity in the late 60s. He told an interviewer “I have had sex with men. Does that make me gay?”
After moving to Paris, Stein met Alice B. Toklas in 1907; she called her “Pussy” and Gertrude was “Lovey” to Alice. Their apartment on the Rue de Fleurus became a famous meeting place for artists and writers.
During the period Toklas and Stein were together, they frequently exchanged love letters. Alice was an early riser, and Gertrude, who wrote late into the night, left her tender, passionate notes to cheer up her mornings. “Baby precious Hubby worked and / loved his wifey, sweet sleepy wifey, / dear dainty wifey, baby precious sleep,” Stein once rhymed.
Toklas gained wide attention with the publication of The Autobiogrphy of Alice B. Toklas (1933), which is actually Gertrude Stein’s memoirs. It records Toklas’s first-person observations of Stein’s life and her friends, among them Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Georges Braque.
The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook came out when Toklas was 77. It contained 300 recipes and became famous because of one special dish, Toklas’s Haschich Fudge (“which anyone could whip up on a rainy day,” as she wrote),
May 1, 1974 – Studio One disco opens in West Hollywood, CA. Started in an old WW2-era bomb-sight manufacturing building, Studio One has a long history that played a big part in the lives, politics and gay rights movement.
May 1, 1974 – Gay activists march in Portugal for the first time, demanding an end to the country’s sodomy laws and a repeal of all statutes that discriminate against gays and lesbians.
May 1, 1975 – Maine Legislators decriminalize homosexuality between consenting adults by repealing its sodomy laws.
May 1, 1975 – Published reports confirm that Paul Newman is having financing trouble with his attempt to bring The Front Runner, a 1974 novel by Patricia Nell Warren. considered now to be a classic of LGBT literature to the big screen. Newman eventually allows his option to lapse.
May 1, 1976 – Christopher Street magazine a gay-orientedmagazine published in New York City, New York debuts. Known both for its serious discussion of issues within the gay community and its satire of anti-gay criticism, it was one of the two most-widely read gay-issues publications in the USA. Christopher Street covered politics and culture and its aim was to become a gay New Yorker. Christopher Street printed 231 issues before closing its doors in December 1995.
May 2, 1895 – Lorenz Hart was born in New York. Richard Rogers wrote the perfect scores for Hart’s words. They became some of the best songs of the ’20s and ’30s. It was a closely guarded secret he was gay. No one knew until a biography came out 30 years after his death.
May 2, 1972 – J. Edgar Hoover dies, and leaves the bulk of his estate to Clyde Tolson, his “companion” of over 40 years. To this day no one really knows th truth if Hoover was gay or not. But for LGBT history’s sake lets hope that it wasn’t so.
May 3, 1912 – Writer May Sarton is born in Wendelgem, Belgium. The writer of some of the most lyric poetry of the 20th century. Satron didn’t see herself as a “lesbian” writer, instead wanting to touch on what is universally human about love in all its manifestations. When publishing her novel Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing in 1965, she feared that writing openly about lesbianism would lead to a diminution of the previously established value of her work. “The fear of homosexuality is so great that it took courage to write a novel about a woman homosexual who is not a sex maniac, a drunkard, a drug-taker, or in any way repulsive” wrote Sarton in Journal of a Solitude. After the book’s release, many of Sarton’s works began to be studied in university level Women’s Studies classes, being embraced by feminists and lesbians alike
May 3, 1989 – Christine Jorgenson, pioneering transsexual, dies of cancer at age sixty-two. Jorgensen was the first person to become widely known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery—in this case, male to female.
Jorgensen grew up in the Bronx area of New York and upon returning to New York after military service and increasingly concerned over (as one obituary called it at the time) her “lack of male physical development” Jorgensen heard about sex reassignment surgery, and began taking the female hormone ethinyl estradiol on her own. She researched the subject with the help of Dr. Joseph Angelo, a husband of one of Jorgensen’s friends.
Jorgensen had intended to go to Sweden, where at the time the only doctors in the world performing this surgery were located. During a stopover in Copenhagen to visit relatives, however, she met Dr. Christian Hamburger, a Danish endocrinologist and specialist in rehabilitative hormonal therapy. Jorgensen stayed in Denmark, and under Dr. Hamburger’s direction, was allowed to begin hormone replacement therapy. She then got special permission from the Danish Minister of Justice to undergo the series of operations for sex re-assignment.
Jorgensen chose the name Christine in honor of Dr. Hamburger and she became the most famous and outspoken figures and for transsexual and transgender community.
May 4, 1993 – “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” opens on Broadway. Millenium Approaches is part one of Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes the Pulitzer Prize-winning play in two parts by American playwright Tony Kushner.
The two parts of the play are separately presentable and entitled Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, respectively and have been made into both a television miniseries and an opera by Peter Eötvös.
Angels in America received numerous awards, including the 1993 and 1994 Tony Awards for Best Play. The play’s first part, Millennium Approaches, received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The play garnered much praise upon its release for its dialogue and exploration of social issues. “Mr. Kushner has written the most thrilling American play in years,” wrote The New York Times and decade after the play’s premier, Metro Weekly labeled it “one of the most important pieces of theater to come out of the late 20th century.”