HOUSTON VOICE www.houslonvoice.com
JUNE 25, 2004 3
Houston's Stonewall took place June 16,1977
Anita Bryant came to
town and galvanized and
empowered the gay
community in Houston
By BINNIE FISHER
If God in his infinite wisdom had not
created Anita Bryant, then gay activist
Ray Hill said, "We would have had to
Hill contends that it was the former
runner-up Miss America who galvanized
and empowered a gay and lesbian eommu-
nity that did not exist before she traveled
to Houston on June 16,1977 to sing to a
bunch of lawyers.
Bryant had evoked the ire of gay
men and lesbians nationwide when she
fought against a proposal in Miami,
Florida to add sexual orientation to the
city's list of protected minorities in hiring and housing.
Bryant organized a group called, "Save
Our Children" to fight the proposal.
At the time, she was quoted as saying.
"What these people (gays) 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."
Fighting the gay rights movement
became her mission. "I will lead such a
crusade to stop it as this country has not
She was right about that.
In Houston in June of 1977, word got
out that Bryant would be the featured
entertainment at a convention of the
Texas State Bar Association.
A handful of activists (Houston only
had a handful then) decided there should
be a response.
Nationwide, protests were being staged
wherever Bryant went. More than that, since
she was the spokesperson tor Florida i -range
juice, boycotts of orange juice from Florida
were being started everywhere.
"A day without orange .juice is like a
day without sunshine." Bryant would say
with a smile in commercials to promote
Activists in Houston were
what they could to fan the flames of
:e boycott, and when
Bryant was to appear in. Houston in
person, Ray Hill said it was decided
there would be an organized pro:.
and the word
ing spread, tin p ment
inted lu know how ma
Since nothing on this 1 been
'di before, Hill said, he thought
he should estimate conservatively The
number he came up with was 500.
Conservative may have been an
across the country
wore buttons that proclaimed, 'No more orange
juice from the un-shine state.
understatement. When it was all said
and done, Hill said, "The figure that
was published at the time was 12,000, so
I'll go with that."
The plan was to march from a bar at
McGowan and Brazos past the Hyatt
Regency, where Bryant was performing, to
I] for a rally.
As the crowd swelled, it became
obvious that the number 500
indeed conservative. Police ordered
marchers to stick to the sidewalks on
either side of the stn
"the gay florists had brought flov
anil they v. ut field flowers
along the way" Hill said.
At the Hyatt, one column went down
Smith and another down Louisia
that protestors would file on both sides of
'At the Hyatt, some began marching
around the building." Hill said. "Anita
Although no one in Houston threw a
pie at Anita Bryant like the one she
cleaned off her face in Des Moines,
Iowa, gay men and lesbians staged a
protest against her.
was performing in the Atrium. They
chanting so loudly."
At one point, Hill said, a group of
ACLU lawyers walked out of the convention in support of the protest
When the group had made their .
known at the Hyatt, the marchers continued toward downtown for the rally. One of
the speakers was Ray Hill.
"I had never seen that many queers in
one place before." he said.
Hill remembers that he told the protestors, "Look around because none of
you have seen this many of us in one
place before. Look around and see how
beautiful we are."
He felt it appropriate to give thanks where
thanks were due saying, "1 want to thank
Anita Bryant for bringing us together."
On the way back from City Hall, Hill
said, the mood was exuberant.
"The trip down had been angry" he
recalled. "All that anger had dissipated.
Coming back, everyone was in an entirely
Glancing at the side of the street,
Hill said he saw a pair of blue legs and
blue arms wrapped around an enormous bouquet of flowers.. The legs and
arms belonged to a female police officer
who had been handed flowers by the
hundreds of protestors walking away
from the rally.
Hill said he asked her if she was having a good time. She replied, "Yes sir. I'm
having the best time of my life."
June 16, 1977 was a turning point.
Hill said. "That was the night we
became a community. The night Anita
came to Houston, unless you were
there, it's hard to get a grip on what
that meant to us.
The day before Anita Bryant came to
Houston. Hill said, there was a handful of
organizing gay activists. A day later, he
said, "There were hundreds."
Bryant emerged from the 1970s in
financial trouble and in ruin as an
entertainer. In recent years. Hill said.
his thoughts toward her have softened.
"We really ought to raise funds and
take care of her." he said. "She brought
Gay activist Ray Hill was an organizers of the Anita
Bryant protest in Houston.