Standing tall and elegant, Dustin Lance Black accepted the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his work on Milk. “Harvey [Milk] gave me his story and I just thought it was time to pass it on,” Black said afterward, before quietly breaking into tears. He added the moment they first saw Sean Penn on set as Harvey, the real life Cleve Jones felt he had seen a ghost.
Black had a lot more to say backstage about the state of gay rights in America, and what he’d like President Obama to do. “there’s a few things that I would love him to do immediately, which is to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and DMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. But I do think that for inspiration for the gay community, we need to look not to Proposition 8, but dream bigger and look back to 1964 and the Civil Rights Act, because no group has ever won full civil rights in this country going state by state or county by county. I think it is time for the gay and lesbian community to have a federal civil rights act for full civil rights.”
As far as whether or not he’d prepared his acceptance speech, he says he winged it. “I had an idea. You know, I had an idea. I mean, for me, the whole thing was always just sort of, you know, pay it forward. You know, Harvey gave me his story. He gave me his story and it saved my life. I just thought it’s time to pass it on. So the only thing I really knew I wanted to say is tell those kids out there they are going to be all right.”