Dustin Lance Black rallied progressives not to settle for crumbs of freedom, but to continue the fight for full equality for everyone. “It is the ‘why’ of our lives that changes minds. Tell them your ‘why.’ Never underestimate the power of your personal story to change minds and bring people over to the side of equality, because once they come to the side of equality they never go back,” he told the crowd of over 500 activists, lawyers, union leaders and politicians at the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan annual dinner Nov. 2. at the Henry Ford Museum.
The diverse crowd included many LGBT leaders including Nancy Katz & Margo Dichtelmiller, Tom Wilczak and Steve Quinkert, Johnny Jenkins from Affirmations, Laura Hughes from Ruth Ellis Center, Curtis Lipscomb from Kick, Jeffrey Montgomery, John Allen, Mark LaChey and Brian Hoffman, Carmen Garcia, Greg Varnum and Roland Leggett from Equality Michigan, Leo Romo from Perceptions and many others.
Black told of his personal struggle growing up in a Mormon household, coming out and pursuing his career in film and theater, reaching the pinnacle with an Oscar win for his screenplay of the movie “Milk” that chronicled the life and death of Black’s hero Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials who was assassinated in San Francisco in 1978. He talked about his macho brother who gave him a hard time about being gay, but later in life told Black that he, too, was gay. But his brother felt he could not be free where he lived in Holland, Michigan because of the oppressive anti-LGBT climate in the state. His brother’s death from cancer earlier this year devastated Black, and he shared his deep frustration with the limited rights for LGBT people in Michigan because it stymied his brother’s happiness.
Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan presented awards to three honorees including retiring Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Jean Kelly, ACLU State Board President Ralph C. Simpson, and the 12 individuals who chair the ACLU statewide lawyers committees: Peter Armstrong, Penny Beardslee, Gregory T. Gibbs, Steve Morse, Megan A. Reynolds, James Rodbard, Gayle Rosen, Nicholas Roumel, John A. Shea, Gillian Talwar, and Sally Wallace.