Oscars, The L-Word, and LGBT Equality

Honolulu, HI–Being blessed by being in the middle of the Pacific, I could at an early hour channel surf between the glitz of the 80th Annual Oscars and The L-Word where Captain Tasha Williams, a decorated Iraq veteran, was getting drummed out of the military for homosexual conduct.

I kept hoping that in my ADD surfing behavior I wouldn’t miss the by-now-expected “gay moment” on the Oscars. Fortunately, I didn’t and the moment was a triumph for all of us struggling for LGBT civil rights.

In the midst of the Oscar’s garish sets, the wonders of technology allowed us to be transported to the desert in Iraq. There male and female military personnel, in the only costumes they get to wear, desert camouflague fatigues, presented the nominees for Best Short Documentary.

For me the irony sizzled. One nominee, Sari’s Mother, shows how the US has thrown the Iraqi medical system into disarray. Another, Freeheld, demonstrates that the freedom and liberty that some LGBT citizens fight for abroad are not theirs at home. And the Oscar went to Freeheld!

Freeheld tells the brave story of the final months of a New Jersey police officer’s fight with cancer and with the elected Board of Freeholders that governs Ocean County, NJ. Garden State Equality, especially the ever resourceful and impassioned Steve Goldstein, plays a crucial role in the poignant struggle of Detective Lieutenant Laurel Hester’s battle for her domestic partner Stacie Andree’s right to her pension benefits and financial security. Lieutenant Hester and Garden State Equality are the heroes of this wrenching saga.

I was stunned by the film’s power when I saw it last spring at the Boston Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and not surprised at all when it walked away with a Boston festival prize, a Sundance, and now an Oscar.

The L-Word’s fictional Captain Williams fighting a military court and the real Lieutenant Hester struggling for justice throw into sharp relief the discrimination LGBT people suffer and the bravery of those who will not accept it. Military and police officers put themselves in harm’s way for our safety. Injustice seems all the more ironic in the denial of their equality.

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