'Milk' screenwriter fears US swinging 'backward' on LGBT rights

Screenwriter and activist Dustin Lance Black says the U.S. is moving backwards on LGBT rights, citing the Trump administration’s military transgender ban, which went into effect last month.

“Right now, unfortunately, we’re in a bit of a pendulum swing backward in some ways,” Black told Hill.TV during an interview that aired on Friday. “I’m hoping we can get that moving forward again.”

Black called on advocates and lawmakers to overcome their political differences and work across the aisle as they did when pushing for marriage equality.

“We need to be doing that again right now, including the arguments to have trans military members be able to serve, where are the conservative arguments for that because they exist, trust me,” he said.

Black won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for “Milk,” the 2008 biopic on the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected public official in the U.S. Black has also been an activist on LGBT issues, including as a key player in the fight to overturn California’s gay marriage ban Proposition 8.

Alongside director Rob Reiner and Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, Black helped push for a federal lawsuit challenging the gay marriage ban. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that the proposition violated the U.S. Constitution and advocates have said the case helped pave the way for gay marriage nationwide.

Black noted that their decision to reach out to Republican lawyer Ted Olsen, who represented the plaintiffs on the case, was a conscious one.

“When me and Rob Reiner and Chad Griffin decided we were going to file a case against Proposition 8 in federal court to try and get to that Supreme Court ... we went to Ted Olsen and asked if he would represent the case,” he told Hill.TV, adding “we couldn’t keep it all blue.”

Black's comments come after the Pentagon's controversial new measure on transgender military members took effect in April. The policy bars most transgender people from serving in the military unless they serve under their biological sex. Advocates blasted the move, calling it "immoral" and "un-American."

Black said to spark change advocates must first change public opinion by enabling trans military service members to share their own personal experiences.

“I want to hear the patriotic arguments made real and made very personal for the inclusion of trans folks in the military to serve,” he told Hill.TV. “And then I think we’ll start seeing progress again.”

However, he warned that progress on LGBT rights will continue to stall if the issue remains entrenched in partisan politics.

“If we continue to make these sorts of personal civil rights issues partisan, you lose,” Black said.

Black is currently on tour promoting his new book, “Mama’s Boy: A Story From Our Americas,” which details his relationship with his conservative mother after he came out to her as gay.

—Tess Bonn