On October 14, 1977, while speaking at an event in Iowa to promote her campaign to roll back anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people, Anita Bryant is hit in the face with a pie.
Bryant was an American household name before she made headlines for her anti-gay political activism. She was the winner of Miss Tulsa in 1957, a runner-up for Miss America in 1960, and the spokesperson for Florida Orange Juice. She was also a pop singer, and performed at the halftime show of Super Bowl V in 1971. She gained national notoriety as a political campaigner in 1977 when she took a stand against a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida, where she lived with her husband and children. The ordinance forbade discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing and employment. Bryant's organized opposition succeeded in repealing those protections.
Bryant appealed to Christian values and motherhood in her anti-gay campaign, which she called "Save our Children." She argued that the gay rights movement threatened to undermine Christian family values, while stoking fears that gay adults would abuse or "recruit" children. She considered homosexuality to be "deviant" and "an abomination of God," and therefore dangerous and unworthy of anti-discrimination protections.
After Bryant successfully repealed the ordinance in Dade County, she went on a tour to promote similar campaigns across the country. At a stop in Des Moines, Iowa, gay activist Tom Higgins pied Bryant in the face. Bryant quipped, "at least it's a fruit pie," before praying for Higgins's soul and breaking into tears. Higgins was not alone in protesting Bryant's speaking tour. Backlash against her crusade inspired large protests in cities like Houston, and galvanized the gay rights movement. Gay bars began boycotting orange juice; instead of screwdrivers, they served "Anita Bryants," urging patrons to "squeeze a fruit for Anita." At the same time, she was voted Good Housekeeping magazine's most admired woman for three years running.
By 1980, Bryant lost her job as spokeswoman for Florida orange juice, her singing career stalled and she divorced her husband. The legacy of her brief political career lives on in continued attempts to block or roll back civil rights for LBGTQ Americans. In Bryant's home state of Florida, in particular, recent so-called "Don't Say Gay" legislation and pushes for "parental rights" recall Bryant's rhetoric in the 1970s.