Dustin Lance Black Asks Americans to "Bare Their Testimony" for Equality
Are you ready to bare your testimony?
Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and the Courage Campaign unveiled a nationwide video contest-"Testimony: Equality on Trial"-in Austin, Tex., on May 22 that encourages people from across the country to submit clips of themselves talking about the importance of LGBT rights. Lieutenant Dan Choi, Zach Wahls and Ed Watson and Derence Kernek are among those cited in the campaign. Black and a production crew will travel to the winner’s hometowns to film a television ad.
"We need to hear your stories, and we need to hear them now," said Black, who referenced his Mormon upbringing in his own clip the Courage Campaign posted to its Web site. "What we’re doing is looking for the stories of everyday Americans-stories of equality-so that we can find new faces of this equality movement."
Black told EDGE in an interview earlier this week that he found a clip from a straight Christian woman who said her belief in equality for LGBT Americans honors her faith particularly compelling. "I was not expecting one like that, but it was lovely to hear it," he said. "There’s so many coming in and our real job is to make sure we hear the voices from not only the big cities, but the small towns-the areas where we need to hear our stories told the most."
The campaign’s timing is certainly not a coincidence.
The White House announced in February that it will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, while the process to implement the repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell" continues. The federal case over California’s Proposition 8 is widely expected to go before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We have to be changing minds, moving numbers and getting the truth told before that federal case gets to the Supreme Court," said Black. "That’s part of our job as a gay community. I’m a student of Harvey Milk and I also pay attention to research on how numbers move-and the number one thing that changes people’s mind is personal stories."
Black, who co-founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights, also stressed the importance of local and statewide victories. New York lawmakers are poised to debate a measure that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the Empire State, while Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed his state’s civil unions bill into law on May 11. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on Thursday, June 2, signed two measures that will ban anti-transgender discrimination in public accommodations and add LGBT-specific protections to the Silver State’s housing anti-discrimination law.
"Between now and the time we reach the Supreme Court, we need to have more victories," said Black, referring back to the Prop 8 case. "The Supreme Court justices are paying attention to what’s happening in the United States; in our culture, in the news. We must continue to demonstrate clearly where our country is going-the state and county and local work cannot stop. It is what will help federal strategy."
Black won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for "Milk" in 2009. He also wrote the biopic on former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that is slated to come out in October.
The campaign will accept submissions through June 15. Log onto the Courage Campaign’s Web site for more information.