A Win for Lance Black Is a Win for Marriage

With his Oscar night acceptance speech for Milk, Dustin Lance Black didn't just honor the legacy of Harvey Milk. He made him proud, and on the subject of marriage equality, he made it personal.

BY Ross von Metzke

February 24 2009 1:00 AM ET

In the days following
the passage of California's anti-gay marriage measure,
Prop. 8, gays and lesbians took to the streets to fight back.
Some were angry. Some were hurt. All felt somehow empowered to
make their voices heard. And yet everyone seemed to offer up
the same frustrations. Despite millions of dollars poured into
both sides of the marriage battle, no one had stepped up to the
podium and emerged as this fight's Harvey Milk.

We had leaders -- Lorri
Jean knows how to move a crowd to action, the lawyers for
Lambda Legal surely deserved our respect and gratitude, and the
millions of grassroots organizers managed to get out the youth
vote like we've seldom seen before. But there was no clear-cut
leader. No one carrying the torch and saying, "Follow me.
This way to victory."

When Dustin Lance Black
took to the stage Sunday night to accept the Oscar for Best
Original Screenplay for
Milk,

he did more for the advancement of equal rights than the
millions of dollars pumped into the No on 8 campaign. He
reached more people than any phone bank could ever hope to. He
had 30 seconds -- a minute, max -- to drive a simple point
home. Gay people are worthy of equal rights.

In the heat of that
moment, his first Oscar win, no one would have thought twice if
his speech had dissolved into a rambling chain of incoherent
thanks -- grasping at straws to be certain he got to everyone
on his list. But centered and collected, with just enough
emotion on his face to make it real, Black did something on
Sunday night that groups full of media-savvy political
strategists were never able to accomplish during the No on 8
campaign.

He made it
personal.

He talked about his
childhood, growing up Mormon. He talked about his mother, who,
despite disapproving looks and pressure from the outside world,
loved him for who he is. He talked about Harvey Milk, his hero,
his lifesaver who showed him that with love and determination,
anything is possible -- even, one day, marriage.

And then he paid it
forward. He spoke directly to those kids out there who, like
him growing up, need someone to look to -- someone to let them
know it's all going to be OK one day.

Tags: film

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