Backlash Backfire

[This post originally ran in February, but the included video is making the rounds again, and I've gotten a bunch of emails about it, so here it is again. Enjoy!]

In August of 2007, the state of Iowa's prohibition on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional. In 2008, the case for marriage equality went to the Iowa Supreme Court, and, in 2009, the Court unanimously ruled in favor of marriage equality, thus making same-sex marriage legal in Iowa.

So of course Republicans in the state House introduced an amendment to the state's constitution to outlaw it again—a futile gesture, since state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal flatly refuses to allow it to come up for a vote in the Senate. (Rock on.) But there were hearings nonetheless, because homobigots love to hear themselves talk in poorly appointed rooms on shitty microphones.

What they weren't counting on was providing a platform to 19-year-old Iowan Zach Wahls, who was raised by a same-sex couple and whose compelling testimony has gone viral, making a passionate appeal for marriage equality the most talked-about event of their stupid symbolic hearing. Whooooooops!

Take it away, Zach.

[Transcript below. H/T to everyone in the multiverse, and thanks to each and every one of you.]
Good evening, Mr. Chairman. My name is Zach Wahls. I'm a sixth-generation Iowan, an engineering student at the University of Iowa, and I was raised by two women.

My biological mom, Terri, told her grandparents that she was pregnant, that the artificial insemination had worked, and they wouldn't even acknowledge it. It 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 lived to see her married to her partner, Jackie, of 15 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. Um, you know, and I guess the point is that our family really isn't so different from any other Iowa family—you know, when I'm home, we go to church together, we eat dinner, we go on vacations. But, you know, we have our hard times, too—we get in fights, um, you know, actually, my mom Terri was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000; it is a devastating disease that put her in a wheelchair, so we've had our share of struggles.

But, you know, 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 from our government.

Being a student at the University of Iowa, the topic of same-sex marriage comes up quite frequently in classroom discussions. You know, and the question always comes down to, "Well, can gays even raise kids?" And the question, you know, the conversation gets quiet for a moment, because most people don't really have an answer—and then I raise my hand and say, "Actually, I was raised by a gay couple, and I'm doing pretty well."

I scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT; I'm actually an Eagle Scout; I own and operate my own small business. If I were your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I'd make you very proud.

I'm not really 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!" No, the sense of family comes from 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 here isn't 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 that 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? Will it affect yours? Over the next two hours, I'm sure we're going to hear plenty of testimony about how damaging having gay parents is on kids. But in my 19 years, 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 effect on the content of my character.

Thank you very much. [applause]

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