The movie Milk shows that the seeds of San Francisco’s gay rights movement were planted in Miami in 1977– during the bitter campaign involving singer Anita Bryant. At the time, I was a reporter at the CBS station in Miami–the movie actually includes our news footage. The station’s editorials were strongly anti-gay. Behind the scenes, it was more personal.
Especially for John Neuharth, the producer on the late news. Every day at work, he held a position of influence, and was expected to be responsible for election coverage. Throughout the campaign, he stayed silent—about gay rights, about Anita Bryant, about the fact that he was gay himself.
30 years later, watching the movie Milk didn’t just mean memories; it meant far more.
“It all came flooding back when I sat in the movie. It was hard to watch. I was right there—and I did nothing to help. In retrospect, I feel angry at myself–that I didn’t do more against Anita Bryant when I could have. I don’t even think we realized back then how much was at stake.”
Today John is 65. He no longer works in television—he watches. Like everyone else, he watched the election results out of California against gay marriage. Soon after that election, he watched Milk. And he was finished watching.
“When I saw Harvey Milk on the screen, I thought back to Anita Bryant. And I thought I should have done something back then. But I can still do it now.”
So John drove across the state of Florida to take part in a grassroots protest demonstrating outside the wedding of Florida governor Charlie Crist. Crist had just voted to change the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. John even ended up on the other side of the news this time, quoted in the St. Petersburg Times, saying ” We have to do something.”
As he told me afterwards, his Milk moment isn’t just personal; he sees Proposition 8 and similar efforts as a wakeup call with repercussions far beyond gay rights. “What’s at stake is not just gay people but everyone else. Prejudice is still out there, under the surface, directed at lots of different groups. If someone can legislate our rights away, what group is next?”
An activist is born. At 65. Proving its never too late to stand up for what you believe in. And continuing the legacy of Harvey Milk. I think Milk would be proud.