April 25—when this issue of Lavender is published—marks the 30th anniversary of one of the darkest days in local GLBT history. On this date in 1978, St. Paul voters by a two-to-one margin in a ballot initiative, repealed the city’s gay-rights ordinance, which had been enacted by the City Council in 1974.
This defeat for our community was part of a nationwide strategy orchestrated by Anita Bryant, a virulently antigay former Miss America and orange-juice pitchwoman. Targeting a number of cities throughout the country that had gay-rights ordinances, she made St. Paul a major battleground. Twin Cities activists bravely fought the repeal juggernaut, but to no avail.
In the ensuing tide sweeping America, voters in Wichita, Kansas, on May 9, and Eugene, Oregon, on May 23, repealed each city’s gay rights ordinance.
To empower the Twin Cities gay and lesbian community after the calamity, for the only time ever, the Gay Pride Festival was held in St. Paul that June. For many years after 1978, a group called the St. Paul Organizing Committee held a commemoration each April 25. Not until 1991 was the St. Paul gay rights ordinance restored.