Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black has been re-invited to give the commencement speech at Pasadena City College (PCC) after officials previously rescinded his invitation, fearing scandal over photos leaked in 2009 of Black having sex with an ex-boyfriend.
Black, who won an Academy Award for the Milk screenplay and was a prominent activist against Prop 8, was one of 8 speakers considered for the commencement speech, and was seemingly invited to take part, having been sent a letter stating:
“…We would like to formally invite Mr. Black to conduct the commencement address to the students as we celebrate our theme of “Proud Past, Global Future.”
PCC officials then discovered that photos had leaked in 2009 showing Black having sex with an ex-boyfriend, and decided to invite a safer choice: Pasadena Director of Public Health Dr. Eric Walsh, who accepted.
That’s when it all started to go wrong for PCC.
News broke that Black had been invited, and then uninvited, to the dismay of students. Black himself released an open letter, outlining his pride at having been a PCC alumnus, and speaking out about that invite being taken back:
“I confirmed the invitation, booked the international flights to get back to Southern California, canceled work, and turned down paid invitations. This invitation was that meaningful to me.
With this cruel act, PCC’s Administration is punishing the victim. And I ask you this: If I was a heterosexual man or woman with this same painful injury in my past, would PCC’s Administration still be rescinding such an honor?
As PCC Administrators attempt to shame me, they are casting a shadow over all LGBT students at PCC. They are sending the message that LGBT students are to be held to a different standard, that there is something inherently shameful about who we are and how we love, and that no matter what we accomplish in our lives, we will never be worthy of PCC’s praise.”
In an ironic twist, a scandal then emerged around PCC’s “safe” replacement speaker, Dr. Walsh. He stepped down from his position as public health director after transcripts of church sermons of his were leaked. In these sermons he denounced - you guessed it - homosexuality, along with women’s rights, Harry Potter, rappers Jay-Z and 50 Cent and magicians Criss Angel and David Blaine.
PCC have now re-invited Black to give the commencement speech, hopefully having learnt a valuable lesson in the process. No word yet on whether he’ll be accepting their offer or not, and PCC are apparently ready to invite other speakers in the event that Black declines.