"You commie, homo-loving sons of guns…I did not expect this and I want it to be very clear that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me often…
For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight—I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.” –Sean Penn, acceptance speech for Best Actor
By the time Sean Penn came on stage to accept his award, there was already this sentiment in the air that an overwhelming issue for humanity in America was lingering. The issue was in the back of the minds of all those at the Oscars---LGBT rights.
The story of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), the first openly gay man elected to a major public office in the United States that was shot to death along with Mayor George Moscone by board colleague Dan White (Josh Brolin), was nominated for many of the categories and would come up in segments of the show like Hugh Jackman’s opening number and Judd Apatow’s video (which featured James Franco who not only starred in the stoner comedy Pineapple Express but also starred in Milk).
The issue of LGBT rights overshadowed the hope centric film Slumdog Millionaire' s success throughout the night and the great film on presidential executive power, Frost/Nixon.
In the first hour of the awards show, the screenplay for Milk won the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award. Dustin Lance Black accepted the award:
“I heard the story of Harvey Milk and it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life openly as who I am, and that one day I could even fall in love and get married.
I want to thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to.
But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you God does love you and that very soon I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.
Thank you and thank you God for giving us Harvey Milk.”
A group called WhiteKnot organized celebrities to wear (you guessed it) white knots at the Academy Awards as symbols of marriage equality. Artists like Emile Hirsch, Gus Van Sant, Josh Brolin, Diane Lane, Anne Hathaway, and others.