Academy award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black will be the grand marshal of the 2012 Utah Pride Festival, which will take place June 1-3. Black wrote the screenplay for Milk and J. Edgar. He also narrated 8: The Mormon Proposition and served as a writer and co-producer for the HBO series Big Love.
Black was raised by his parents in the Mormon faith but has said he knew he was gay from a young age and felt conflicted. Depressed and sometimes suicidal, Black said he felt as though God was going to punish him for being gay. But after moving to California and learning more about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected representative in the U.S., he saw a real role model.
“When I first heard Harvey’s story at 13, I was a closeted kid living in a conservative Mormon, military home. It was a rough time for me. Hearing Harvey’s story not only gave me the hope he talked so often about, it very likely saved my life,” Black said in a 2009 press release.
Along with commercial and editorial success, Black is also an activist and has participated in national rallies and helped found the American Foundation for Equal Rights. He marched in the National Equality March and delivered a speech in front of the Congress Building to an estimated 200,000 queer-rights activists. In June 2009, he was named by The Advocate as the most influential gay man in the country.
Black also wrote and directed the 8: The Play, which portrays the court happenings in Perry v. Schwarzenegger after the court refused to release video of the proceedings. The play was read by an all-star cast, in California, as a fundraiser for the AFER and will be read in different theater companies around the nation this summer, including in Salt Lake City.