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 12:00 AM ET

"If Harvey Milk
were alive today, I think he'd want me to say to all of the gay
and lesbian children out there who have been told that they are
less than by their churches or by the government or by their
families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures who have
value," he said, looking straight into the camera. "No
matter what anybody tells you, God does love you and that very
soon I promise you ... you will have equal rights federally
across this great nation of ours."

After months of ads
featuring the parents of gays and lesbians who would be
affected by Prop. 8, teachers and politicians who were against
Prop. 8, and a random sprinkling of celebrities lending their
influence to the cause, Black made it personal. He humanized
it.

In the weeks following
the passing of Prop. 8, a group of gay families got together
and cut a series of ads called Get to Know Us First. Instead of
hiding gay families from voters, the ads let them come out,
front and center, and share their stories.

Lance Black was out
front and center Sunday night -- in front of millions of
people. No matter how much money the No on 8 campaign managed
to raise, that's an opportunity no amount of money could buy.
In the audience, Kate Winslet raised her hands above her head
and cheered him on. Josh Brolin, nominated for
Milk,

cheered with his wife, Diane Lane, a white knot in support of
marriage equality pinned to his lapel. According to the
Los Angeles Times,

Jennifer Aniston cried in the wings. And at home, my mom
watched and picked up the phone to call. Her response? One
word. "Wow."

Later in the night,
Sean Penn made a similarly moving speech -- to hear a Best
Actor winner make a plea for marriage equality, and to see an
audience full of people give him a standing ovation for it, is
a milestone, to be sure. But Lance Black's speech was so deeply
personal -- so from the heart and spontaneous while managing to
hit all the key points and then some -- that it became more
than an Oscar speech. For that moment, every gay man and woman
watching from home felt like they'd won an Oscar. Black put in
the work and wrote one hell of a script, but his win was a
score for the entire community.

The political
campaigning is done. Now the fight becomes about getting Prop.
8 overturned and, if that fails, shifting our focus to the next
stage of the battle. And whether Lance Black ever leads a rally
or reaches for the bullhorn to motivate a united gay army, on
Sunday night he stepped out in front of this battle.

For his moment in the
spotlight, Lance Black didn't just honor the legacy of Harvey
Milk. He made him proud.

Tags: film

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