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Black, Dustin Lance (b. 1974)  
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Kevin Bacon portrays Charles J. Cooper, the lead attorney for the anti-marriage proponents of Proposition 8. Jane Lynch stars as Maggie Gallagher, co-founder and former chairman of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage. John C. Reilly plays David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values, who testified ineffectually for the proponents of Proposition 8, but when subjected to a withering cross-examination by David Boies, actually provided support for the benefits of same-sex marriage.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights and Broadway Impact have released and licensed the play for readings nationwide on college campuses and in community theaters free of charge.

Black also wrote the screenplay for Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, a drama based on the life of J. Edgar Hoover, released in November 2011. The film, which received mixed reviews, is notable for Black's depiction of the relationship between Hoover and his deputy Clyde Tolson as life partners and his exploration of the difficulties of a prominent person living in the closet.

Black, who is single, has been so busy as an activist that, he jokingly told Karpel, it has damaged his love life. When he goes out on the town in West Hollywood, he spends so much time talking to "cool lesbians" who want to discuss marriage equality that he winds up going home alone. "That's why I don't get laid," he quipped.

Despite his work on behalf of glbtq rights, Black has a number of film projects in the works.

In 2010, Black directed a film based on his own script (and on his own youthful experience) entitled What's Wrong With Virginia?, described as a mother-son coming of age story starring Jennifer Connolly, Ed Harris, and Harrison Gilbertson.

When the film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was not greeted happily by critics. Although Connolly's performance was praised, the film itself was deemed a failure, more like bad camp than cutting-edge satire.

In response, Black re-edited the film, retitled it simply Virginia, and re-released it in 2012. The new version received more mixed reviews, though many continued to find the film's occasionally comic treatment of schizophrenia unsettling.

He will also collaborate with Gus Van Sant again, this time on a film based on Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test.

Black recently led the list of The Advocate's "Forty under 40": forty accomplished individuals who owe their success at least in part to what happened at the Stonewall Inn 40 years ago.

Claude J. Summers

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arts >> Overview:  American Television, Drama

American television has made significant strides in its portrayal of homosexuals in dramatic series and movies, but cable networks have been more daring than the "big three" broadcast networks.

arts >> Overview:  American Television, Reality Shows

Reality television viewers have come increasingly to expect the appearance of gay men and lesbians on these shows because their presence helps further underscore the "reality" in Reality TV.

social sciences >> Overview:  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

The socially and politically conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long been antagonistic to the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.

arts >> Overview:  Documentary Film

The queer community has used documentary film to resurrect historical memory and to permit the marginalized to bear witness, as well as to build an image base that reflects our diversity and counters distorted representations.

arts >> Overview:  Film Directors

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual film directors have been a vital creative presence in cinema since the medium's inception over one hundred years ago.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay Rights Movement, U. S.

The U.S. gay rights movement has made significant progress toward achieving equality for glbtq Americans, and in the process has become more inclusive and diverse, but much remains to be done.

arts >> Overview:  Horror Films

The monsters of horror films may frequently be read as mirrors of societal views of homosexuals as predatory, amoral, perverse, possessed of secret supernatural powers, and threatening to "normal life."

social sciences >> Overview:  Marches on Washington

Marches on Washington in support of the rights of glbtq people have been a significant part of the modern movement for equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  San Francisco

San Francisco has enjoyed a reputation as a "gay mecca" since World War II.

arts >> Overview:  Screenwriters

Although film may be a director's rather than a writer's medium, gay and lesbian screenwriters have made significant contributions to both mainstream and independent film.

arts >> Barclay, Paris 

Award-winning television director Paris Barclay is also an activist for glbtq rights, including marriage equality and the opportunity to adopt children as he and his husband have done.

arts >> Epstein, Rob

Writer, director, and producer Rob Epstein is one of the most accomplished documentary filmmakers of his generation, having worked on a number of landmark gay-themed films.

social sciences >> GetEqual

The direct action group GetEqual has gained attention by its bold action, including civil disobedience, on behalf of equal rights for glbtq people.

social sciences >> Griffin, Chad

Chad Griffin co-founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights to sponsor a legal challenge to Proposition 8; in June 2012, he assumed the helm of the Human Rights Campaign.

social sciences >> Jones, Cleve

Activist Cleve Jones is best known as the originator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, but his life as a gay man has always been firmly interwoven with his life as a political organizer.

arts >> Kleiser, Randal

Although best known for his direction of lighter fare such as Grease, Randal Kleiser made his most significant contribution to gay cinema with the 1996 AIDS-themed "It's My Party."

social sciences >> Milk, Harvey

Harvey Milk, among the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States, was assassinated in San Francisco's City Hall, making him the American gay liberation movement's most visible martyr.

social sciences >> Proposition 8 (California)

Proposition 8, also known as the California Marriage Protection Act, was the ballot proposition that amended the California state constitution to ban same-sex marriage; after prolonged litigation in both state and federal court, it was finally struck down in June 2013.

literature >> Shilts, Randy

Randy Shilts pioneered as an openly gay journalist in the 1970s and 1980s and was an astute interpreter of the various issues affecting American gay men and lesbians.

arts >> Singer, Bryan

Film director and producer Bryan Singer overturns standard narrative formulae and develops complex characters; he consistently emphasizes the fluidity and ambiguity of identity categories, including those pertaining to gender and sexuality.

arts >> Star, Darren

Responsible for such pop culture touchstones as Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, and Sex and the City, writer-director-producer Darren Star has had a prolific career in television.

social sciences >> Stonewall Riots

The confrontations between police and demonstrators at the Stonewall Inn in New York City the weekend of June 27-29, 1969 mark the beginning of the modern glbtq movement for equal rights.

arts >> Van Sant, Gus

One of the most idiosyncratic talents to have emerged from the independent cinema over the past decade and a half, Gus Van Sant is not only matter-of-fact about his sexual orientation, but in his work he also represents homosexuality matter-of-factly.

arts >> Zadan, Craig (b. 1949), and Neil Meron (b. 1955)

Prolific film, television, and stage producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have created a diverse body of work, including a number of theatrical films and television features with glbtq themes.


Black, Dustin Lance. "30 Years Later." (February 21, 2009):

Gross, Terry. "'Milk' Screenwriter: Harvey Helped Me Come Out." Fresh Air from WHYY (November 20, 2008):

Hernandez, Greg. "Dustin Lance Black on the Late Pedro Zamora: 'I Find Myself Missing Him.'" (March 26, 2009):

Karpel, Ari. "Forty under 40: Dustin Lance Black." The Advocate 1027 (June 2009):

Lamble, David. "How He Got Milk." The Bay Area Reporter (February 21, 2008):

"Oscar Winner Dustin Lance Black '96: Writing from the Heart, 'Milk' to 'Kool-Aid.'" Social Responsibility (UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television) (November 2008):

Stifler, Scott. "Dustin Lance Black on Writing 'Milk.'" Edge (Boston) (November 24, 2008):

Taylor, Maggie. "'Milk' Writer Dustin Lance Black Helps Get Harvey Milk Day Approved." (May 6, 2009):


    Citation Information
    Author: Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: Black, Dustin Lance  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2009  
    Date Last Updated August 26, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2009 glbtq, Inc.  


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