Reaction to the Ruling: Dustin Lance Black

Lance telling lou sheldon Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Milk,” flew into Los Angeles this morning from Washington DC to take part in tonight’s rally in West Hollywood.

But when he boarded his American Airlines flight, he immediately recognized the man sitting next to him: The Rev. Lou Sheldon, the Orange County pastor who long has opposed gay rights.

“I thought, ‘Is this a sign of what is coming?'” Black said.

Although Black identified himself and his occupation, Sheldon never made the connection that he was conversing with one of the most visible Hollywood activists calling for a fight for gay and lesbian equality at the national level. Black also is on the board of the American Foundation of Equal Rights, the org that is spearheading the case against Prop 8.

For the next four and a half hours they talked about not just same-sex marriage but a host of hotbed issues including health care and the stimulus program.

“I thought, what an opportunity to hear see this through his eyes,” Black said. “Truthfully, he was incredibly kind to me, and what I heard was about everything I thought the problem is, which is misconception.”

He said that Sheldon talked of “conservative politics and how gay people are shoving their agenda down the throats of religion.”

“It was a very friendly exchange,” Black said. “I in no way backed down or closeted myself, but we had a very lively, friendly discussion about it.”

Black went to the home of Bruce Cohen, producer of “Milk” and a fellow board member of the Equal Rights Foundation, and initially heard of rumors of the decision on Towleroad. Not until the heard from Chad Griffin, the foundation’s president, did they celebrate.

Having read portions of the ruling, Black said that it was clear that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker “wanted to construct what I think is a very thorough and bulletproof argument that will hold up in the Ninth Circuit.”

“It is clear that he understands that this is an important issue to gay and lesbian people across the country and I think it is clear that it will be important to people throughout this country,” Black said.

When Black accepted his Oscar in 2009, he said that gay rights should be elevated to the national level, but he says he caught flak from longtime activists who had been taking a state-by-state approach, believing that was the best chance of success. He had cited the plans of Harvey Milk before be was assassinated, which was to take the movement “to Jimmy Carter and to take it national.”

He said that the next few months will be about “an opportunity to educate,” particularly with the heightened interest in the case.

“I think this is an opportunity,” he said. “Just the fact that this was the headline, and that the headline said that for the first time in our nation’s history, gay and lesbian people deserve equal treatment under the constitution, that sends a message.”

“This is a day of celebration, but I guarantee you that 12 or 14 hours from now the work begins again.”

Photo by Karen Ocamb: Black at the West Hollywood rally with Chad Griffin, Ted Olson and Paul Katami.

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