Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award in 2009 for the screenplay to Milk, narrates the documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Jan. 24. A gay Mormon who grew up in Texas and California, Black has used his celebrity to further gay rights. While in town for Sundance, he spoke at Equality Utah’s “Joyous Sound for Common Ground” at the Capitol and spent “all but six hours” of his weekend in Salt Lake City, not Park City.
What was your impression of Salt Lake City’s gay community?
I’ve been to Salt Lake City many times for visits with family and when we were working on [HBO’s] Big Love [which Black once co-wrote]. What I didn’t know [previously] is how active it seems everyone is, politically and socially. It reminds me a lot of the divide and passion that I found when I was reading about San Francisco in the late ’60s and early ’70s. … San Francisco was traditionally a conservative area that was going through a sea of change.
Do you think being brought up Mormon outside of Utah contrasts significantly with being a home-grown Mormon?
Yes. You learned early on what it means to be a minority and it’s comparable to being gay. There is terror associated with coming out and kids being cruel.
Do you think The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will eventually capitulate on the issue of homosexuality?
Yes. A lot goes to the conversations I’ve had with the rank-and-file in the Mormon church. What these people are learning now—especially in Utah, especially after the backlash of Proposition 8—is that they have gay and lesbian family members who were hurt by the church leadership. I don’t think any of them want to see their gay and lesbian kids excluded from heaven because of words spoken from the pulpit.
What would you say to people who refuse to see 8 because of claims that it’s untruthful or unfair?
I would urge people to see it before you make those sorts of judgments, because the evidence presented is pretty clear.
You and others involved in 8 have been villified by some individuals, especially on the Internet, for voicing criticism of church political activities. How does that feel?
I’ve heard criticism from everything I’ve ever done that’s mattered. It’s just a part of the game. In this case, I think it’s very important that people speak out.