Orange Crush: Bob Kunst and the Real Story of Anita Bryant, Save Our Children and the Miami Gay Rights Ordinance of 1976

 

bob_kunstToday is President's Day and my morning started with trying to finish a tile mural on the west side of our house. It looks marvelous but a ton of work and still it's my therapy to calm down from everything going on in my life, which is still a plateful.

Gardening in our jungle is my other passion besides dancing, as I ready myself to go to Trinidad Carnival next week, my 21st. trip there, it will be my first time since my cryo operation on my prostate cancer, which I'm still recovering from.

Doug, my true love for the last 24 yrs., (We celebrated in January) and I decided to schlepp into Coconut Grove today for the Arts Festival, get a poster and munchies and enjoy this delightful weather. I know there’s another foot of snow in Boston, poor Yankees!

I needed a break as if I didn't have another thing to do, but I'm also unraveling many boxes of newspapers I haven't read in years, in order to write my book on Anita Bryant and out struggle through the years of the Miami Gay Rights Ordinance and “Save Our Children” and our immense pioneering efforts in the early days of the gay rights days back in the mid-1970s.

The traffic today is horrendous. A billion dollars in fancy yachts is right across from where we live, but we decided to drive south instead.

In going through these boxes, I've come across a lot about our campaign for "Affectional and Sexual" liberation and our opposition to Anita Bryant and the Save Our Children Campaign.  But even with the 100 articles I just found, compared to hundreds of boxes I have on all of this revolutionary success, I still could write a book just from these articles.

In the last week, we took on Allianz Insurance with its Nazi past and denial of compensation to Holocaust Survivors and we got hundreds of media and websites that picked up on it including this one and I thank you.
Then I got a call that Obama and Sen. Nelson of Fla. are getting together in Miami on March 4, for a fundraiser and both of them support the Nazi Insurance Companies and not the Holocaust Survivors.
We are planning actions immediately on this.

Then I get a call that the Reverend Fred Phelps will be in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday to protest a play about Matthew Shepard, the gay man killed in Wyoming and we are helping to organize an action against him on that one. We've protested against these Nazis a dozen times over the years.

Also this Saturday, we are trying to mobilize resistance to "J St." in Washington D.C., of self-hating Jews siding with Israel's enemies.

Of course I watch the mayhem across the Arab world claiming it wants freedom and democracy and I remember how in Gaza they voted in Hamas and in Germany they voted in Hitler.

Will the Arabs/Muslims stop their gay-bashing where in Saudi Arabia, they cut off the heads of gays and in Iran they hang them?

You remember Saudi Arabia, pushing oil to $5 a gallon with Obama's help, no matter what happens in all of these protests and using them as excuses for the hidden agenda. This is the same Saudi Arabia responsible for '9/11' and nearly 20,000 additional Islamic attacks since then! They have been against Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and everyone they consider to be 'infidels' and gays certainly fall into that category.

Anyhow, I'm on a roll at my tender age of 68 and enclosed is my "South Florida Spring Carnival" effort as I'm also fighting those who want to revise history on a host of levels.

Of course denying the Holocaust is revisionism at its worst, which the Arabs/Muslims cowardly deny, though they were aligned with Hitler in WWII.

But now let me get into the ACLU's revisionism politics concerning Anita Bryant.

Let me preface that there isn't a Nazi or KKK lowlife that the ACLU won't defend.  They want Guantanamo and its Courts closed regarding Muslim Nazi murderers.  Felons not voting are another of their passions andReuben Askew yes it took 33 years for the ACLU here in Florida to actually overturn the ban on gay adoptions, which was put there in the first place to support Anita Bryant's anti-gay witch-hunt, also supported by the Florida Legislature and Governor Reuben Askew.

On Aug. 12, 2008 the Miami Herald reported that the ACLU sued over anti-petitions law on gathering signatures near polling places.

Jerry FalwellToo bad the ACLU didn't respond when I was arrested on Miami Beach in Round II of our elections against Anita/Falwell and the Miami Herald etc. who opposed us, when they claimed I was passing out leaflets too close to a precinct on behalf of defending the U.S. Constitution. Though the case was dropped, the media rushed to my aid, not the ACLU.

Over the years in every attempt I made to call the ACLU about supposedly relevant issues, I never once got a phone call back.

Was it “Kunst” bashing, their bad manners, lousy politics but does it really matter?

The February 5, 2009 Miami Herald had a story on how the ACLU affiliate cuts staff 20% because of a decline in contributions. Was it any wonder?

Then on September 23, 2010, I read in the Reader's Forum of the Miami Herald, by Howard Simon, Exec. Dir. of ACLU, that Bruce J. Winick, a University of Miami law professor had died on August 26, 2010 at the age of 65 and how influential he was in the development of human rights in our community.

Simon now goes into his revisionism mode by stating that: "In the mid-1970's, after returning from an ACLU Board meeting in Orlando, Winick and Alan Terl, a gay-rights lawyer/activist, developed the idea of a Miami-Dade County Human Rights Ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on what was then called "sexual preference".

"Then County Commissioner Ruth Shack sponsored the measure."

"It passed, making our county the first in the country to extend civil-rights protections to gays and lesbians."

"Anita Bryant's crusade led to the ordinance's repeal and it took the commission more than 20 years to reenact it. The new ordinance was also subject to a referendum, and the ACLU working with Save Dade, protected it from another repeal...”

Either Simon has his facts wrong and trivializes this whole incredible experience or he is directly lying and manipulating history as part of his fundraising and political agenda.

I knew Winick and Terl, but neither wrote any such ordinance in 1977.

Dr. Alan Rockway and I were the ones who wrote the ordinance and presented it to the Dade County Commission.

I was the only person to make an appearance before the Fair Housing and Employment Appeals Board, in 1976 and won a 5-3 vote to add: "Affectional and Sexual Preference" to an existing non-discrimination ordinance in housing, employment and public accommodations, which passed 9-0 on first reading before the Metro Commission on December 7, 1976 , Pearl Harbor Day.

Save Dade couldn't get it passed on first reading 20 yrs. later, with ACLU help.

There was no gay rights movement  per se in 1975 with any ACLU involvement.

We formed the Dade-County Coalition for the Humanistic Rights of Gays as a result of our Transperience Center's Gay, Bisexual and Heterosexual Center's huge success and vast media, in which Miami Magazine asked us for an article on all of these issues.

The political agenda of gays was barely in existence here or anywhere. This was always a party town except for police raids on bars and in the bushes.

Rockway and I suggested that we get into the upcoming elections in 1976 and we would only endorse those candidates who supported: 'Affectional and sexual preference' legislation, 'Consenting Adult' legislation and the Equal Rights Amendment'.

This was a first in putting this out to every candidate running for local, state and statewide office.

We were astounded at how many candidates would support gay rights but not the ERA.

This was a package deal from us with no deviation.

We were very professional, met the candidates, gave them our agenda and out of 67 candidates, we won 49 of them including Ruth Shack, whose husband was Anita Bryant's public relations manager.

We even defeated two anti-gay legislators endorsed by the Miami Herald, who had also supported Anita in three elections we ran to finally throw the old girl out of the state altogether.

Imagine the Miami Herald and San Francisco Examiner being against us while we were getting support from all of these small town newspapers.  What we learned from this, which the so-called movement still doesn't get, is that 'sex' isn't a liberal versus conservative issue, but one of emotional and sexual security versus insecurity.

Our Miami Victory Campaign was the only group with a news clipping service so that we understood that we couldn't take anyone for granted on who they are or what they believed.

Therefore we reached out to everyone. There were plenty of conservatives on our side, but didn't talk about it. There were plenty of liberals who after that 'hug' couldn't handle their own sexuality, let alone ours.

Anita and her supporters had shown up in 1976 to make sure that the ERA wasn't going to pass and Florida was the pivotal state for all of it and of course the ACLU was AWOL on all of it.

At the same time, E. Clay Shaw, then Mayor of Ft. Laud., said he was "Going to run Gays out of Ft. Lauderdale" and we then went up to Broward County and formed the Broward County Coalition for the Humanistic Rights of Gays to oppose Shaw and his witch-hunt and run him out of town instead.

 


The media was covering us in both counties and we kept schlepping back and forth with the movement building because of our efforts, not the ACLU's.

Mind you; in 30 hours of media we had done with Transperience Center in 1976 and in being the second center in the U.S. to get federal funding, we didn't hear a peep from the opposition.

So Simon ignores that we were the turning point in the whole gay rights and sexual rights struggle and that we took over the media, locally, state, nationally, internationally and involved the whole nation from the White House on down in the most phenomenal effort ever and all of it trivialized by the ACLU and their agenda with Save Dade campaign that came 20 years later after we did the heavy lifting they've chosen to ignore, dismiss and then again isn't it about the funding to play out these low class politics?

The Miami Herald didn't even include this event in 1977 in their 100th anniversary edition of key events here. Meanwhile, the Associated Press said that on June 7, 1977 we were the #1 story in the nation and never duplicated since.

There is one hell of a story here to tell and I'll keep writing about it so that the truth will finally “set us free.”

On Aug. 27, 2010, the Miami Herald had Winick's death and again repeated the ACLU statement about him leading the gay rights battle.

I called Elinor Brecher who wrote about it to correct it and she said that I should write a letter to the editor, which she would print as soon as she gets a chance.

Please understand that our 'ordinance' was “Affectional and Sexual” preference in 1976, not “sexual orientation” in 1997.

We never apologized for who we were and we didn't cloak everything under “human rights.”  Anita Bryant equated our love-making with animals and dead people. We corrected her lies and distortions and never ran from our emotional and sexual liberation versus her hang-ups.

We saw 'sexual orientation' used by the movement as an excuse of being 'born that way' and we can't help ourselves.

We saw “Affectional and Sexual” preferences as freedom of choice and giving permission to experience oneself in a myriad of opportunities for self, same-sex and other sex relationships and no apologies for having these “gifts.”

We were doing this as “tension-prevention” and treating everyone as if the community were on the couch.

The way the ordinance was read, those collecting the signatures to overturn it had the advantage of the “for” vote.

If you were for 'human rights' for gays, bisexuals and heterosexuals, you voted with Anita Bryant by mistake.

Rockway and I discovered immediately that we were stuck with the “against” vote and we kept telling the other groups to stop talking 'for' but how to vote against to no avail. They wouldn't listen and we had to deal with this effort besides everyone's hang-ups.

Still we got over 50,000 news clippings alone and 92,000 votes and made “gay” a household word. We brought out millions. We got thousands of organizations mobilized on our behalf.

We were and are the “role-models.” All those negative images of homosexuals were overcome by our presence.

 


We pushed human sexuality in an open debate that no community had ever gone through and with no violence and we did it in three elections and in collecting over 60,000 signatures to have those elections.

Ruth Shack, whose daughter is a lesbian, was a major disappointment.

In Round II, we collected 18,000 signatures to get 10,000 good ones and this time in 1978, we got the “for” vote while the others went back into their closets.  We went from 92,000 votes to 142,000 votes on a $5000 budget and went from 31% to 42% just by changing this strategy of us getting the “for” vote to stop our momentum,  Ruth Shack decided to triple the number of signatures it would take to get on the ballot the 3rd time, being our charm.

Here she was willing to allow the right-wing loonies to have this victory over her own daughter, let alone the rest of us.

Could there be a more conniving sell out, but definitely in that camp with the ACLU politics, to dismiss our whole effort and to demean not just myself, but all the millions of people who got involved with this effort and then voted on it three times to finally win our 'privacy rights constitutional amendment' in 1980, the most radical in the nation.

None of this effort was ever given any recognition by the 'so-called' movement.

This was long before there was a "Save Dade" campaign in 1997.

Dumping on me has been the "thank you", not that any of these people would either have the guts or the stamina to put up with all the attacks that I endured, let alone Anita Bryant. Rockway, a clinical psychologist, moved to San Francisco, to get away from the hostile homophile community's inability to understand what we had accomplished, not just for us, but that we opened that door of activism all across the nation and planet.

Don't think that “Stonewall” in 1969, made a difference to the public in general who never knew about it, while the hype over it has continued with “pride” festivals annually. Drag Queens taking on NYPD was an internal issue. When I lived in NY, I went to this bar many times, but personally this incident had very little impact on me or anyone else I knew.

Anita was that vehicle we “used” to get to where it really made a difference and no amount of revisionism is going to change that by the cowards who want to deny this reality.

I see this oppression from the so-called movement, regarding their agenda...” to be just like everyone else.”

We didn't want to be like the fearful, violent, guilt-ridden hypocrites out there, let alone to have them endorsing our love-making which is none of their business to begin with.

Today's crawling and groveling to be “accepted” by the above, is truly sickening. The issue is to accept oneself and permit oneself to explore what G-d gave us, which is the ability to love in a myriad of ways, dumped on by the church-state maniacs who are always trying to regulate everyone's behavior but their own, while dumping on the U.S. Constitution which guarantees our rights as taxpayers, to enjoy our “Affectional and Sexual” preferences.

Our argument with Anita/Falwell was this: "You want to discriminate; then you pick up the tab! Don’t ask us to pay for our oppression. We are first class Americans and we pay taxes: End of Story."

If one wants kids and marriage, fine. If one doesn't, that's fine, too!

If one wants one lover or whatever number, that’s fine as long as permission is given with a consenting adult to have those relationships.

We may not have those political rights, but we are light years ahead of those who think they have a right to own slaves and treat us as second-class citizens, let alone “less than.” The violence isn't coming from our community as a body-politic.

Transperience had a message on identifying our male/female abilities in our "Direct Love Transperience" workshop we did all over the country, in Canada, on the airwaves and in our Center.  It is a feel-touch-mediation with three people and after going through it was higher than any drug out there and all natural. It worked if you risked it.

Our capacity as human beings, not fearing those feelings within us is what drove this entire campaign and those who didn't want the world to know this did their best to dump on it, which didn't just hurt Rockway and myself but everyone who had gotten off their behinds to open this door so wide that it would never close again.

As my Rabbi once told me: "Nurture the roots and the blossoms will grow."  Oh, then there is that other issue of anti-Semitism in the homosexual community to have to cope with besides all the rest of it.

Anita Bryant and I had something in common, only she and I knew about.

We were the central figures on both sides.

We took all the grief and also the support. We were in the “hot seat.” It didn't happen by accident.

It took strength; lots of it. I'm not competing with anyone over what we accomplished. We saved a lot of lives and I'm proud of all of it.

My beloved Alan Rockway tragically died of Aids complications in 1989. What an immense loss to our total community. So many who were with us died by neglect and bigotry and government and social politics that took one million lives just in the U.S. and 20 million worldwide.

I will try to unravel our whole experience through this column.

Bob Kunst

Writer/Gay Activist
LGBT-Today

 

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