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First woman to thank her same-sex partner in Oscars speech dies aged 60

Joseph McCormick November 11, 2017

HOLLYWOOD - OCTOBER 13: Director Debra Chasnoff arrives at The Linwood Dunn Theatre at the AMPAS for the screening of her film "Deadly Diception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment" on Monday, October 13, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Byron Gamarro/Getty Images)

A filmmaker who was the first woman to thank her lesbian partner while accepting an Oscar has died, aged 60.

Debra Chasnoff was a documentary filmmaker and activist born in Philadelphia.

The Oscar-winner died after battling breast cancer, reports the Mombian website.

HOLLYWOOD – OCTOBER 13: Director Debra Chasnoff arrives at The Linwood Dunn Theatre at the AMPAS for the screening of her film “Deadly Diception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment” on October 13, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Byron Gamarro/Getty Images)

Her films looked at social issues and her GroundSpark production company made films about stopping discrimination, environmental concerns and affordable housing.

Chasnoff won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject for her film Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and our Environment, released in 1991.

The film looked at how nuclear materials produced by General Electric impact on the environment.

In the groundbreaking speech, Chasnoff said: “I am very grateful to my friends and family, particularly to Kim Klausner, my life partner, who always had faith in me, and to our son Noah who reminds me on a daily basis of why it’s so important not to give up and to keep working for peace and justice.”

Speaking to Lesbian News Magazine in 2009, she said: “When I did it, I thought, this is really astonishing to me that this hasn’t happened before.

“We all know plenty of gay people who have won Academy Awards but we’re all just quiet about it. I couldn’t imagine having that profound of an honour and not acknowledging my partner.”

HOLLYWOOD – OCTOBER 13: Directors Debra Chasnoff, Allie Light and Irving Saraf arrive at The Linwood Dunn Theatre at the AMPAS for the screenings of their films “Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment” and “In the Shadow of the Stars” on Monday October 13, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Byron Gamarro/Getty Images)

As well as being the first woman to publicly thank her same-sex partner during an Oscars speech, it was also Chasnoff’s public coming out.

Since the speech, Chasnoff married artist Nancy Otto.

As well as environmental and other social issues, Chasnoff made a number of documentaries on LGBT+ issues.

Chasnoff is survived by wife Nancy and two children Noah and Oscar.

More: debra chasnoff

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