I had coffee with Zach Wahls today

Moms done good.

He’s the Iowa then-teenager, now 20, who gave an impassioned three-minute speech about his two moms before the Iowa legislature, during the state’s gay marriage debate a year ago, and the video immediately went viral on YouTube.  He was in town doing some talks, and some mutual friends put us in touch.  I asked him for an interview, but he has a new book coming in April and was asked not to do any interviews until the book is ready, which I totally respect.

I can say, I hope, that we schemed a little ourselves, I offered some advice, and bottom line, he’s just a sincere, earnest, smart, nice guy.  I hope he does well with the book and his other plans.  It’s just so cool meeting someone so young who wants to make a difference, and believes they can make a difference.  It’s also nice to meet someone who’s been through the publicity wringer, with appearances on Ellen, CBS, MSNBC and lots more, and come out with their head still very much on straight.

Moms done good.

Here’s Zach’s now-famous testimony, with the transcript below.  Watch it again.  I just did.  It really is kind of amazing.  He was just 19 (though a state debate champ, which clearly comes through).  Not that it matters, but Zach is straight.  I do, however, think that that fact adds another level of interest to his story.


Good evening Mr. Chairman, my name is Zach Wahls. I’m a sixth-generation Iowan and an engineering student at the University of Iowa, and I was raised by two women. My biological mother Terri told her grandparents that she was pregnant, that the artificial insemination had worked, and they wouldn’t even acknowledge it. It actually wasn’t until I was born and they succumbed to my infantile cuteness that they broke down and told her that they were thrilled to have another grandson. Unfortunately, neither of them would live to see her marry her partner Jacki of fifteen years when they wed in 2009. My younger sister and only sibling was born in 1994. We actually have the same anonymous donor, so we’re full siblings, which is really cool for me. I guess the point is that my family really isn’t so different from any other Iowa family. When I’m home, we go to church together. We eat dinner, we go on vacations. But, we have our hard times too; we get in fights. My mom, Terri, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. It is a devastating disease that put her in a wheelchair, so you know, we’ve had our struggles. But we’re Iowans. We don’t expect anyone to solve our problems for us. We’ll fight our own battles. We just hope for equal and fair treatment for our government.

Being a student at the University of Iowa, the topic of same sex marriage comes up quite frequently in class discussions. The question always comes down to, “Can gays even raise kids?” And the conversation gets quiet for a moment, because most people don’t really have an answer. And then I raise my hand and say, “Well actually, I was raised by a gay couple, and I’m doing pretty well.” I score in the 99th percentile on the ACT. I’m an Eagle Scout. I own and operate my own small business. If I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I’d make you very proud. I’m not so different from any of your children. My family really isn’t so different from yours. After all, your family doesn’t derive its sense of worth from being told by the state, “You’re married, congratulations!” The sense of family comes the commitment we make to each other to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us. That’s what makes a family.

So what you’re voting for here is not to change us. It’s not to change our families, it’s to change how the law views us, how the law treats us. You are voting for the first time in the history of our state to codify discrimination into our constitution, a constitution that but for the proposed amendment is the least amended constitution in the United States of America. You are telling Iowans, “Some among you are second-class citizens who do not have the right to marry the person you love.” So will this vote affect my family? Would it affect yours? In the next two hours, I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot of testimony about how damaging having gay parents is on kids. But not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple. And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero impact on the content of my character. Thank you.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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