Sean Penn delivers his acceptance speech.
Two films featuring gay and lesbian characters won three Oscars at the 81st Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood on Sunday.
Milk – the film about the murdered gay politician Harvey Milk, received the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for writer Dustin Lance Black, and best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, for Sean Penn for his role as Harvey Milk.
Penelope Cruz received an Oscar for best Performance by an Actress in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Cruz plays Maria Elena, a bisexual woman who has a relationship with Cristina, played by Scarlett Johansson and Juan Antonio, played by Javier Bardem.
In openly gay writer Dustin Lance Black’s moving acceptance speech he called for Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equality:
“If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d 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.”
Sean Penn also called attention to LGBT rights during his acceptance speech:
“I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the US LGBT media advocacy organisation, congratulated the creative teams and casts.
“The success of Milk has tremendous impact in creating awareness, understanding and acceptance during a time when our community continues to face opposition in our pursuit of equality,” said Neil G. Giuliano, President of GLAAD.
“The images of our community that these and other LGBT inclusive films bring to audiences around the country help people embrace the LGBT community with understanding and acceptance.”
According to a recent survey commissioned by GLAAD, nearly 20 percent of Americans said that their feelings toward gay and lesbian people have become more favourable over the past five years. Respondents whose views have become more favourable cited seeing gay or lesbian characters in movies (29%) as a contributing factor.