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Feb 23, 2009
The Oscars took place this weekend, and, amongst a year of incredibly strong films, Milk, a film biopic on Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected into office as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, won Best Actor for Sean Penn in the role of Harvey Milk, and Best Screenplay for young writer Dustin Lance Black.

In his acceptance speech Black, an openly gay scriptwriter and activist best known for his work on TV show Big Love, made an emotional and powerful speech where he touched on his upbringing in a strict Mormon household, his mother’s constant devotion and love for him, as well as the life changing power Harvey Milk’s story had during his formative years of the early 1990s. 

Black then reached out to the gay and lesbian youth everywhere, encouraging them to have self worth, telling them that they are valued by God and then thanking God for the man that was Harvey Milk, who, in previous interviews, Black has referred to as a “father figure”.

For your reading pleasure, here is Black's speech in full:

Oh my God. This was, um, this was not an easy film to make and first off, I have to thank Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg and all the real-life people who shared their stories with me. And, um, Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, James Franco and our entire cast; my producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, everyone at Groundswell and Focus for taking on the challenge of telling this life-saving story.

When I was thirteen years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas, to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope to… one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe, even, I could even fall in love and one day get married.

I wanna, I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am, even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us thirty years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that, no matter what anyone 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.

Thank you, thank you, and thank you God, for giving us Harvey Milk.

To see Dustin Lance Black's speech, please click here whereby the video will open in a new window for your convenience.

The Harvey Milk biopic seems to have resonated beyond the LGBT community to garner mass appeal as an important chapter in history, and appears particularly important in the wake of Proposition 8, an amendment to the constitution that banned California gay marriage that was also heavily financed by the Mormon Church. In his award acceptance speech, actor Sean Penn also made reference to gay rights, asking for a repeal of Proposition 8.

Dustin Lance Black’s conviction and eloquence, as well as his honest gratitude, were qualities that made this win at the Oscars, at least in this blogger’s humble opinion, a highlight of the 81st Academy Awards and it was a win that excites the possibility of what is yet to come from gay cinema, as it is slowly but surely is accepted into mainstream culture.
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Posted: Feb 23, 2009 6:00am

 

 
 
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Steve Busfield
, 3
Wakefield, United Kingdom
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