In the beginning, the gay rights battle that changed America didn’t seem like much of a battle at all. In 1977, activists in Miami pushed for a nondiscrimination ordinance—a law that would protect gay people from losing their jobs or their homes simply for being themselves. Similar ordinances had been adopted in nearly 40 cities. A few years earlier, when a nondiscrimination bill had gone on the books in Seattle, the gay magazine the Advocate had celebrated what a nonevent it was.
But Miami would be different. Miami had Anita Bryant.
The first episode of Slate’s new podcast One Year tells the story of the beauty queen, pop singer, and orange juice spokeswoman who launched a crusade against gay rights. How did a local fight over a nondiscrimination ordinance became a national referendum on homosexuality? What damage did Bryant do, in Miami and across the country? And how did the events of 1977 transform and embolden both the Christian right and the gay rights movement?
That’s just one of seven episodes in the inaugural season of One Year, our new show on the people and struggles that changed America—one year at a time.
Our first season—which premieres on Thursday, with new episodes debuting weekly—focuses on 1977, a year when the nation’s rules seemed on the verge of getting rewritten. In politics, culture, sports, religion, and so many other realms, change in America felt possible, but was far from assured. It was a year when the world we live in today was beginning to take shape.
Read below for a preview of three more episodes from One Year: 1977. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And Slate Plus members can get special bonus episodes that go into even more depth on the topics we’re exploring this season. If you’re not a member, join for only $1 for your first month.
Up in Smoke: Jimmy Carter was the first major-party presidential nominee to endorse the decriminalization of marijuana. When he got elected, it looked like America’s drug laws might loosen up for good. But everything changed in 1977, thanks to a Christmas party where the United States drug czar may or may not have snorted cocaine.
The Rookie: In 1977, sports writer Mary Shane got hired to announce Major League Baseball games—the first woman to hold that job in a way that went beyond a gimmick. For Shane, the job was a dream come true. But as the season got underway, she had to fight to carve out space for herself, and for women, in one of America’s most sexist industries.
The Miracle Cure: Proponents of the drug Laetrile called it a powerful cancer treatment. Its detractors called it dangerous quackery. The Green family believed it was their son Chad’s best chance to survive leukemia. When they took Chad’s care into their own hands, they set off a nationwide debate pitting medical expertise against Americans’ individual liberties.