Talking to Dustin Lance Black can give you chills. The Milk screenwriter and Oscar winner has a calm, confident compassion about him that almost overshadows his eloquent replies to such intense subjects as the Mormon church and the battle for same-sex marriage.
In the midst of the throng of interviews taking place on the red carpet at Saturday’s 21st annual GLAAD Media Awards, the out writer and activist stopped to talk with AfterElton.com about his advice for Promgate’s Constance McMillen and why the GLAAD Media Awards are so important.
AfterElton.com: Why do you think the GLAAD Media Awards are important?
Dustin Lance Black: I think it’s one of the things that if there’s going to be a watchdog group for the gay and lesbian community — which means they’ll get on people’s backs when they say the wrong things — it’s always great to have the other side of it, which is to reward people when they’ve represented the LGBT community accurately and favorably. I think that’s what this night is, a celebration of people who got it right.
AE: You’re the narrator for 8: The Mormon Proposition, the documentary that premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. How did you get involved with that project?
DLB: I got a phone call from Reed Cowan, the director, about a year ago. He asked if I was interested in it and started showing me a few clips of what (research) he got. I thought it was pretty remarkable.
As a former Mormon, getting that kind of access to those types of recordings and those documents, it’s unheard of. He really did his work to get that stuff out of the church. I really think it holds them accountable. I thought that this is so incredibly important — I think the gay and lesbian community knows about the Mormon church’s involvement — but I think that the rest of the country doesn’t quite know how involved they were.
AE: It’s incredible, Cowan documented the Mormon church’s involvement dating back to Hawaii in the 1990s.
DLB: Right. They’ve been crafting this plan for quite some time, the Mormon church. I think they’re using a lot of what they saw happen in Anita Bryant’s Save the Children campaign back in the ’70s, and I think they updated it and tested it and came to Hawaii and it worked in Hawaii just the way it did in the ’70s. Then they tried it again in California and they succeeded — twice — so we have to get the word out that this is the philosophy and we can’t let it work a third time, well it did work a third time, in Maine, but not a fourth time.
AE: How can the LGBT community respond?
DLB: I think the community seems to be organizing around 2012. Personally, I’m on the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We’ve organized the federal Supreme Court case, so I’m really hopeful that we can get some change through our courts, which is a very traditional civil rights sort of avenue for this kind of a fight and if not, then 2012 maybe.
AE: Constance McMillen is here tonight —
DLB: I think it’s so great the way these young people respond to this sort of discrimination. They respond immediately and decisively that it’s wrong; like they feel it in their gut. I think a lot of people in my generation still feel a lot of shame when we’re discriminated against. So my hat is off to her. How brave of her.
AE: She mentioned earlier that she’d like to continue to be an activist and study psychology.
DLB: I think the two will go very well together. I do know she’s the Grand Marshal of the New York Pride parade, which I was last year. So all I have to say to her is to use sunblock.
AE: Do you have any advice for her as an activist?
DLB: Stay true to yourself and stay aggressive, for sure.
For more information on the L.A. GLAAD Media Awards visit the GLAAD website.