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Dustin Lance Black has carved out a successful career — and won an Oscar — by revisiting LGBTQ history and telling stories about those who spent time on the front lines in the fight for equal rights. He did so via 2008’s Milk starring Sean Penn as California’s first openly gay elected official Harvey Milk, and later on the 2017 ABC miniseries When We Rise.
Now, Black, 44, is revisiting his personal history as a way to show support for the Equality Act, a bill introduced in Congress in March that would provide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ citizens across employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs and jury service. And he’s doing so in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign as part of the organization’s “Americans for the Equality Act” series, filmed and directed by Black with Paris Barclay.
“Our personal stories are the most powerful thing we have,” says Black in the opening seconds. “They’re powerful because they change hearts, they correct the record, they erase the misconceptions. People get to know who we are in our heart and when you change someone’s heart you can change their mind. And that’s why we have to have the Equality Act right now because it means people will feel safe and free to share their personal stories.”
Black, who is married to Olympic diver Tom Daley, then opens up about his gay brother, Marcus, and how he didn’t feel safe to live his life out in the open.
“Marcus came out to me when I was on the set of Milk,” a revelation that he says wasn’t the biggest surprise in some ways but in others, it defied stereotypes because he was a man who watched NASCAR and flew an American flag off of his truck. “My brother couldn’t live safely in the part of the country he loved the most. My brother loved Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, Arkansas. He loved being a son of the South. He loved the traditions. He loved our family there in Texas, but he had to leave to feel safe.”
Marcus ended up moving to California to live with Black full-time and “he never, ever knew what it must feel like to be able to live in the place he loved to live, in the place he called home and do so knowing that the words of the Constitution applied to him equally,” Black explains of his brother, who died of cancer after moving west. “That he also had the right to pursue happiness and to be free.”
It’s a life Black now enjoys as a married gay man and father of a young son. “I have never imagined that I would get married and that I would become a father. It’s been the greatest gift of my life, greatest surprise of my life and I now have a view into being a LGBTQ person that I didn’t have before,” Black says of life with Daley and their baby boy, Robbie Ray Black-Daley, born last summer. “Because now I have all of these concerns about my child that take precedent over everything else. I want our son to grow up knowing his family in Texas and Arkansas and Louisiana. I want him to understand why I love the place we come from, to know his history and be really happy and proud about it. I am going to do all I can to make sure that that happens, but I could also use the help of the law. I want to live in a country where the law says, hey, treat your neighbors as you’d like to be treated yourself. That’s the Golden Rule. Protect family. Protect children.”
Watch the full clip below.
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