Amazing archival 1970s news footage about gay rights (video)

It’s an amazing series of news clips, all from the 1970s, of gay rights.

It’s so weird to hear gay people on TV use the word “homosexuals.” We don’t. Not anymore. It’s a point I’ve raised in a number of articles I’ve written. Listen to the beginning of the video, where the one activists says “For the past year, homosexuals have been coming out in public.” No gay person would say that phrase using the word “homosexual.” Or the next guy, who says “the organization of homosexuals coming together on the spur of the moment.” Again, we’d say “gay” nowadays.

Oh god, and the reporter talks about “committed homosexuals.” Oy.

Then there’s the camera angle with the crotch-shot showing people dancing. That wasn’t terribly necessary, was it.

And there’s Anita Bryant too.

anita-bryantAnd the famous footage of her getting a pie in the face from a gay activist. It’s strange — every time I see the video, it strikes me as almost violent. That’s not to say she didn’t deserve it. But it’s amazing to watch, and you almost feel sorry for her when she starts crying. But she did ever feel sorry for all the pain she was causing us? Nope.

The pie episode shows up about 42 minutes into the video.

Religious right bigot Anita Bryant gets a pie in the face from a gay rights protester.

Religious right bigot Anita Bryant gets a pie in the face from a gay rights protester.

The pie in the face gif is an interesting metaphor, and leitmotif, for the entire gay rights movement, and why we’ve been so successful over the years. We tend to hit back, hard.

Some of the accents are interesting too. They sound like old cops-and-robbers movies.

Oops, don’t look now, there’s yet another “cisgender white man who never did or risked anything for the movement.”


There sure are a lot of them in this record of the top people who made a huge impact, and risked everything, back in the day so that we could freely berate and minimize their contributions today.

It’s a fascinating video, and amazing to watch people who had the nerve 40 years ago, before it was safe almost anywhere, to be publicly gay, and fight for our rights. I think sometimes folks forget how hard it was to do what activists do, and did, before, say, 2008.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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42 Responses to “Amazing archival 1970s news footage about gay rights (video)”

  1. Tracy Adams says:

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  2. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I always thought it was interesting that the U.S. Army use to test for a gag reflex.

    There’s also:

  3. Drew2u says:

    I wonder if anyone checks out comments on older stories after a while? In point, I submit this interesting article about finding out if someone had “homosexual tendencies” in the 1950s:

    What’s pretty interesting about it are the ideas in play for the pre-hippie era, during the beatnik generation. Plus – speaking for myself – “gay history” really felt like it began with Stonewall in 1969, possibly of people involved in the “free love” generation that succeeded the beatniks – with regard, of course, to the pink triangles in the nazi death camps and classical history. Rediscovering something like this article, to me, is akin to finding a “No Irish Need Apply” sign or a classifieds section of a news paper listing “for men” and ” for women” jobs.

  4. Karen Carrera says:

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  5. Karen Carrera says:

    I never believed that I would ever be cured of HIV on till now.

    Am From USA i saw some testimonies on the internet on how Dr. Ariba cured a girl of HIV/AIDS. but because i was desperate i tried and contacted him on [email protected] and luckilly he prepared the cure for me and sent me a parcel and after two days of drinking the content of the percel as instructed, i was healed totally. if you need his help, you can contact him on [email protected] Or [email protected] and get cured.

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  6. Karen Carrera says:

    I never believed that I would ever be cured of HIV on till now.

    Am From USA i saw some testimonies on the internet on how Dr. Ariba cured a girl of HIV/AIDS. but because i was desperate i tried and contacted him on [email protected] and luckilly he prepared the cure for me and sent me a parcel and after two days of drinking the content of the percel as instructed, i was healed totally. if you need his help, you can contact him on [email protected] Or [email protected] and get cured.

    Kind regards,….

  7. KirstenMundayafy says:

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  8. LADY MABELINE says:

    I marched in my first gay pride parade in 1981. The pace that our movement has moved forward takes my breath away every time I think about it.

  9. I was watching a first-season episode of “Kojak” called “Requiem for a Cop” when Kojak uses the word “homosexual” on the son of a cop whose death he is investigating. This episode took place in 1973 .

  10. Luke James says:

    I still use the word homosexual and really can not see why any one would have a problem with it . It sounds better than ‘gay ‘ any day , rather be labeled a homo over a gay , no ? there .

  11. Petewithumlaut says:

    Sure appreciate seeing the video. I marched in New York, Chicago and Detroit in the 70s, never dreaming that one day I’d be reading court decisions on marriage equality. Well, never dreamed I’d be here now, poking around in archives for a face in the crowd shots: the young, shy (and brave) young man I was.

  12. Badgerite says:

    They better hurry. People were on the news getting licenses.
    I’ve hated this thing since it was voted on. It is good to see it go down.
    Enjoy your Happy Dance.

  13. The_Fixer says:

    Last night I stayed up very late to read the whole 88 pages. I was impressed by the meticulous detail that is evident in Judge Crabb’s ruling. That and the obviousness of her logic shines through, and how it’s simply not debatable.

    It was particularly heartwarming to see so many of the points that we, as a community, have been making over the years appearing in her ruling.

    Yes, you are right – this is a solid ruling. Some of the statements made by the defendants and present in the amicus briefs were simply foolish, and she shot holes in their nearly laughable “logic” with precision. I can’t imagine what grounds that they feel are worthy of bringing forth in their appeal, I only know that if they are more of the same, they will not prevail.

    The only part of the decision that I can think of them trying to make hay with might be the level of scrutiny. There are a couple of places where she says that she has little or no guidance regarding the level of scrutiny to be applied in evaluating some of the arguments. But in the end, I don’t think that will wash.

    As convoluted as Wisconsin politics are these days, I expect they won’t stop fighting this until their avenues of appeal are exhausted.

  14. robintyler says:

    John. I emceed Pride in SF after Harvey (Milk) was murdered. They show a clip of my speech around l hr and 8 minutes and 25 seconds. Wow, that was so long ago!

  15. Badgerite says:

    “Under these circumstances, personal beliefs, anxiety about change and discomfort about an unfamiliar way of life must give way to a respect for the constitutional rights of individuals, just as those concerns had to give way for the right of the Amish to educate their children according to their own values, Wisconsin v Yoder, 406 US 205, (1972 ), for Jehovah’s Witnesses to exercise their religion freely, West Virginia Board of Education v Barnette, 319 US 624, (1941 ), and for interracial couples to marry the person they believed to be irreplaceable, Loving v Virginia, 388 US 1 (1967 ). In doing this, courts do not “endorse” marriage between same-sex couples, but merely affirm that those couples have rights to liberty and equality under the Constitution, just as heterosexual couples do.”
    This is solid and she positions this case as squarely in line with other court cases that supported the rights of religious minorities to exercise their religion and educate their children and the case which overturned state bans on interracial marriage.
    It is the same principle. She brings that out quite nicely.
    Red state. Blue state. (And Wisconsin is a little of both ) The lower courts are establishing a formidable record.

  16. Benz981 says:

    I am 34 years old, and I will forever feel gratitude to my older gay brothers and sisters for blazing trails and pioneering very harsh, dangerous, and occasionally deadly landscapes. I’m in awe of how young so many LGBT kids come out (something I could never do until I was solidly in my mid-20s) and are so comfortable with themselves…. and also a little envious for world they have inherited. At every opportunity, we should make sure the younger generation is reminded about the advantageous position they are in through the blood, sweat, and tears of their elder brothers/sisters.

  17. GarySFBCN says:

    All true, but there were bigger changes: The AIDS crisis either INVENTED the model of the patient being a ‘partner’ in their own health or caused it to spread to all healthcare. Until then, physicians mostly ‘talked down’ to patients and frankly, most patients did not take any responsibility for their own health – beyond the doctor’s instructions.

    And in the early days of the crisis, the Internet was not really available to the public and it wasn’t until the 1990’s that it was mature enough for all of us to use. And in those early days, many of us were researching, desperately trying to find treatments for those around us. This lead to liaisons with pharmaceutical companies (I remember the early but false promise if Ribavirin other drugs). Activists created maps to pharmacies in Tijuana where experimental drug manufactured by legitimate companies were available. Compassionate use laws were passed, in part, to allow people to bring what they needed across the border.
    Physicians were just as frustrated and devastated as their patients. And doctors and their patients began to work together as a team to try to find a cure.

    Fast forward to now. Many physicians, if not most, now use the team approach to some degree. I think that AIDS popularized this approach.

  18. The_Fixer says:

    Wisconsin Attorney General Van Hollen has announced that he’s filing a motion for an emergency stay, of course. But not before some 68 people in Madison, and 78 people in Milwaukee were able to get marriage licenses. The clerks in both Dane and Milwaukee counties kept their offices open until 9:00 Friday night to deal with the expected rush of applicants.

    I think the favorite part of the ruling (and I have yet to get through all 88 pages) has to be this:

    “Throughout history, the most “traditional” form of marriage has not been between one man and one woman, but between one man and multiple women, which presumably is not a tradition that defendants and amici would like to continue.”


    Based on the results of other court cases, Van Hollen is wasting time, resources and money fighting this. Which is typical for the right-wingers – helping people is a waste of government funds, but going to court over and over to deny people their rights is not.

    And I am fairly confident that Judge Barbara Crabb’s decision will stand. As I said before, I have not gotten through all 88 pages yet, but what I’ve seen so far seems to be a very well-constructed and well-cited ruling and opinion that will be very difficult to overturn.

    Of course I have no immediate prospects for marrying, but…. Happy Dance!

  19. Monte Logan says:

    this is my history right here

  20. PeteWa says:

    The Normal Heart on HBO really hits that home. What an awful time that was.

  21. BeccaM says:

    I just saw that. Fantastic news!

    And of course, the judge cited Scalia’s DOMA dissent numerous times. :-)

  22. PeteWa says:

    thanks Jerry, it is people like you who helped make my life that much better.
    it was hard enough to come out in the late eighties, but much easier than it would have been without the bravery and work of you and others.
    have a good day!

  23. Anita Bryant was the best thing to happen to the early gay rights movement. She gave the movement… movement! For the first time,it brought many gay factions together with a common goal. I created a t-shirt and talked United Press International to put the story on the wires. A couple of weeks later I was able to get Jane Fonda to wear one at a gay fund raiser.That made A.P. and tomorrow will mark the anniversary of Orange Tuesday. 6/7/77 the impromptu march after a vote in Dade County Florida led by Anita Bryant was rescinded. The march was recreated for the movie MILK, however there were many mistakes.I recommend the history of my iconic image of Harvey Milk. I recommend visiting:

    Congratulations to my friend Danny Nicoletta who’s image of Harvey graces the USA FOREVER STAMP. Here is my forever NOW image of Harvey!

  24. docsterx says:

    Great news to start the weekend with, thanks!

  25. docsterx says:

    Not only some changes in the social and political fields but changes in science and medicine, as well.

    Remember when Reagan and his advisers refused to do anything about HIV/AIDS including even mention it publicly? For years and years, as thousands died and tens of thousands became infected.

    Some early US HIV researchers had to go to extraordinary means to get any kind of funding to investigate the disease.

    Two professors at the university I attended were denied tenure because he was a “faggot” and she was a “lezzy” in the words of the department chair.

    If a patient mentioned to his doctor that he was gay, he might expect to be immediately discharged from his practice for being “one of those.”

    Women physicians who went into any specialty other than obstetrics or pediatrics were immediately thought of as being lesbians. The same with women who tried to enlist in the military so that the government would pay for medical school tuition.

    Conditions have improved somewhat since then, but there’s still a long way to go.

  26. The_Fixer says:

    Big news in my state – the 27th Circuit Court has invalidated Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage.

    Just saw it on the news, and have to go to work so I don’t have all of the details. Of course, the Attorney General of Wisconsin, J.B. Van Hollen (a Walker crony) will appeal.

    One-by-One, like dominoes, they shall continue to fall…

  27. PeteWa says:

    when Anita started crying, I felt nothing but contempt.
    what a loathsome, hateful creature she was.

  28. dcinsider says:

    And none are necessary. I just prefer not to buy into the alphabet soup to a certain extent. It is a battle I lost a long time ago, but us veterans of the gay rights movement should be allowed our eccentricities.

  29. BeccaM says:

    The Republicans and their radical fundamentalist allies still haven’t realized that with few confused exceptions (Log Cabin Republicans, GOProud), gay people hear exactly what’s being said when the homophobes insist that being gay is not only merely a ‘lifestyle choice’ but also inherently immoral and deplorable.

    There is no message other than, “We do not want you to exist. Or, if you must exist, your lives should be as painful and awful as we can arrange to make them. We say we love you, but in reality we hate you.”

    No other conclusion is possible when they insist gay people will suffer in Hell forever and ever simply for being who they are.

    Basically, the homophobes want to go back to the days when majorities could honestly claim they didn’t personally know any gay people. Well, that they knew of anyway. Back when Liberace and Paul Lynde could camp it up like crazy on TV and the average schmoe could pretend to cluelessness as to the actual sexual orientation of these celebrities.

    But yeah… I saw the reports of the Texas GOP platform and laughed aloud. As ever, they didn’t even bother to hide the animus. Flat out, it was labeling being gay as a moral defect, a correctable mental illness, and an ‘unacceptable lifestyle.’ Back then, in the 70s and 80s, there were very few voices to counter the haters, like Bryant. Yes, we’ve come a long, long way since then…but I’ll be a whole lot happier if the day ever comes when we stop seeing hateful bigots like Tony Perkins, Ken Blackwell, and Bryan Fischer being given equal airtime with gay rights spokesmen and -women.

  30. BeccaM says:

    Yeah, well, LGBT is the only way a bisexual such as myself gets invited to the party. So I make no hashtag apologies for using the acronym either.

  31. The_Fixer says:

    My, how things have changed, and how they’ve stayed the same.

    We didn’t have Federal employment anti-discrimination laws back then, and still don’t.

    We hear the same old, tired arguments from the religious right – along with the same dire predictions. Funny thing is, none of those dire predictions about the harm to children, the collapse of society and the like have come true in the decades since they were first made. I think that needs to be pointed out when those same old canards are trotted out in an effort to instill fear in the hearts of every average person.

    We still hear the religious right claim that we’re deviates. That hasn’t gone away, but that argument is losing credibility as more people discover that they’ve always known gay people, only that they didn’t know that the people they’ve known are gay.

    That’s the other side of the coin – People’s attitudes are changing. Marriage equality is rapidly coming to most every part of the country. Masters and Johnson’s assertion that gay people can be changed into straight, along with their faulty premise that sexual orientation is “developed”, are both regarded as incorrect and attempts to change sexual orientation are considered harmful and dangerous. Except in Texas, where the GOP thinks reparative therapy is just dandy and should be part of their political platform. Interestingly, they are getting (a little) pushback on this.

    It’s a long and ongoing struggle, and the memories of earlier times easily fade. This should be required viewing for younger gay folk who don’t understand what the fuss is all about. But this was great to watch. Never forget what we’ve collectively been through, and the people who have not lived to see the progress that has been made.

  32. dcinsider says:

    I’ll hate them for you.

  33. dcinsider says:

    I still use gay and lesbian and only resort to LGBT when forced to by the gender identity police. #noapologies

  34. BeccaM says:

    The evolution of the terminology — on both sides — certainly has been interesting. As John points out, we went fairly quickly from ‘homosexual’ to ‘gay.’ Meanwhile, the homophobes have used quite a variety of terms to describe LGBTs, including attempts to use both nouns and convoluted adjectives.

    For the most part though, the sides haven’t changed: LGBTs define ourselves as who we are, and the homophobes consistently reach for the language of unacceptable actions. Like when they say, “I don’t object to gay people, I just don’t approve of their lifestyle choices.” The constant attempts make gays disappear by enforcing the outward seeming into the context where, as it was 40-50 years ago, many people claimed they didn’t know anybody who was gay.

    And this is where it comes back to Harvey Milk and his brilliant exhortation, how important it was for us to come out of the closet and be visible.

  35. mooresart says:

    Thanks for posting this John. What a time machine! I lived in San Francisco through the 70s into the mid-80s and well remember those times, especially the assassinations of Moscone and Milk. Never did I expect to live long enough to see gay marriage legal in nineteen states and over fifty percent of Americans agreeing with gay marriage. We’ve come a long way baby!

    “At least it was a fruit pie.” You have to credit Anita with some quick wit if nothing else. :) I’m a pretty sensitive guy but her tears did not move me. She wreaked plenty of havoc in her day.

  36. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I’ve always said that the young LGBTs need to know our history, but everyone can always learn more. I never knew that Masters and Johnson threw us under the bus. They did a tremendous amount of damage.

  37. basenjilover says:

    Maybe we should “pied” Nancy Grace for her disgusting recent comment describing that nasty bigot as “sweet lady”. Nancy got her head so far up her butt it’s coming out of her mouth.

  38. pappyvet says:

    If we do not know where we came from we cannot know where we are going. Or how much of a struggle it took to get here.

  39. HereinDC says:

    funny how now 40 years later…..when she says deviant behavior…’s HERSELF she’s talking about.

  40. Indigo says:

    Ah . . . the good old days. We did what was possible and now things are so much better that we can look back with nostalgia. Yeah . . . about that . . . that decade ended with the Hate Revolution and Reaganism continues even today to infect the body politic.

  41. Drew2u says:

    Keep these posts, coming, John. As a 30 year-old in a rural area, knowing the history of (and I really hate to use this phrase…) “our people” from the courageous ones who didn’t hide who they were, to how the media represented our rights, to how our opposition portrayed us and who they were. My generation and younger should know that there’s more than just Stonewall-then-fast-forward-to-Marriage-Equality-in-the-states.

  42. cole3244 says:

    boy that video brought back memories, one thing that has been consistent in america then and now is the use of hate and violence by the supposed good religious right to further their agenda of keeping america and the world from moving forward, which is normal where as the rw agenda is abnormal and the main reason for all the bigotry, hate, and violence in the world today.

    i know hate is a horrible word so i won’t use it but i do despise the rw white conservatives for the damage they have done worldwide in the name of religion and protecting the status quo.

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