Fringe Moments in Florida’s Gay Rights History

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In Florida, the Supreme Court of the United States decision legalizing same-sex marriage punctuates a long, sorted history of anti-gay tactics. To fully appreciate Florida’s role in the national gay rights debate and how far it has been dragged, screaming and praying into the sunshine, let’s look back at four of its not-so-proud moments.

    • The Florida Legislature’s legendary report: Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida.  In the 1960s, Florida legislative investigative committee went on a gay hunt and more than 100 college professors, deans and public school teachers lost their jobs. The committee also put out a 50-page anti-gay report, “Reefer Madness”-style. Sprinkled with bondage and glory hole photos and a dictionary of sexual vernacular, the report is a cross between soft-porn and a Sunday morning sermon. The legislative authors considered homosexuality “a threat to the health and moral well-being of a sizable portion of our populations, particularly our youth.” Salute to the Miami New Times for pulling the report out of the closet and reminding us that Florida’s leadership has always been fringe-worthy.
    • The Anita Bryant years.  It only took a few minutes for Anita Bryant to clean the pie off her face, but it’s taken gay activists almost 40 years to remove her legacy of anti-gay laws. In 1977 Miss Florida OJ made the state ground zero in her fight against everything gay. Her Save the Children campaign succeeded in getting the city of Miami to overturn its gay-rights ordinance and in getting the Florida Legislature to pass laws against gay adoption and gay marriage. Although the ban on gays adopting children was overturned by a court ruling in 2010, it wasn’t until Spring 2015 that the Florida Legislature officially repealed law.

  • Hillsborough County (Tampa) anti-gay pride ordinance. Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms, a rattlesnake of morality, led an attack on the county’s recognition of Gay Pride month after a few library patrons complained about a display on gay authors. The ban and following protest launched Florida into the national spotlight of shame once again. It also drove Tampa Strip Club King Joe Redner to admit he was gay, for the moment anyway. True to form, he sued in attempt to overturn the ordinance. (more in Fringe Florida)
  • The Modern Day Anita. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi of Katrina-dog infamy fought again and again to uphold Florida’s gay marriage ban as the sands of support disappeared beneath her. She even argued against allowing gays to divorce in Florida. The U.S. Supreme Court decision squashes her most recent appeal. Despite her relentless attempts to keep gay marriage illegal, Bondi has said repeatedly that she’s not anti-gay.pam bondi
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