‘What Makes A Family’: Zach Wahls speaks out

Zach Wahls, a student at the University of Iowa and LGBT activist, speaks about his family and same-sex marriage on April 2, 2013, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. Wahls gained media attention when he testified to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in January 2011.

Miranda Freeman

The son of lesbian mothers who famously spoke out in support of same-sex marriage for his family in January 2011 to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee came to ISU to share his experiences on April 2, 2013, in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

Zach Wahls, part-time engineering student at the University of Iowa, spoke about what makes a family. 

The Iowa House Judiciary Committee decided ultimately to pass the Defense of Marriage Act bill. The bill means same-sex marriage would not be recognized in all 50 states, but only in the states that do legalize same-sex marriage.

“First cousins can get married and in all states this marriage is still recognized, but in Iowa same-sex marriage is legal but not recognized in all states,” Wahls said. “It is a double standard for same-sex marriage.” 

This bill was first enacted on Sept. 21, 1996. 

“Newt Gingrich pushed this bill to defend the sanctuary of marriage, but was in his second affair about to marry his third wife, and Bill Clinton… Well, we don’t really know what number he was on at that time,” Wahls said. 

At the age of 19, Wahls addressed the Iowa House Judiciary Committee. 

“They [the Iowa House Judiciary Committee] forced a public hearing on same-sex marriage and asked the public to speak up at the hearing for how this bill would affect our lives,” Wahls said. “Being a typical college student, I wrote my speech the night before.”  

Wahls’ speech went viral by Feb. 2, 2011. 

“I woke up to 500 emails sitting in my inbox and 700 notifications on Facebook,” Wahls said.

That same day Wahls was called to be on the CBS early show, NBSC, and the Ellen Degeneres Show.

“I was asked by almost every major media outlet except Fox News; I wasn’t surprised,” Wahls said.

Wahls was also offered a speaking agent and a book agent. His book is titled “My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family.” 

The general question Wahls gets from people is, “Who taught you how to be a man?” To which Wahls responds with, “Besides Mulan?” 

“Nobody learns how to be a man or an adult by one single person; there were other men in my life: my granddads, Eagle scouts, uncles, male teachers — there was no positive male role model shortage in my life,” Wahls said. 

Wahls said that there were people in his life who bullied him for having lesbian mothers. 

“Those people that taught those kids that bullying other kids because they have gay parents, they are the ones that should be held accountable, not my gay parents for being gay; the victim should never be the one told they are the ones doing things wrong,” Wahls said. 

“In 2004 Rick Santorum stated that same-sex marriages was an assault on his ability to practice the type of religion he wanted, and that it was an attack on traditional family structure,” Wahls said. “Fear is what he was using in his debate. It’s not something we need to be scared of.”

Wahls began a new Boy Scout organization in May 2012 called Scouts for Equality. In January 2013, the Boy Scouts of America said they would consider letting homosexual boys into Boy Scouts.

“The place where I felt most comfortable about letting people know I had gay parents was in Boy Scouts and my church, ironically enough,” Wahls said. 

May 23, is when the Boy Scouts of America will vote in Texas on whether or not homosexual boys are to be allowed into the Boy Scouts.  

Max Wood, sophomore in materials engineering, said, “I felt it was more validity for me; most of the people coming to hear him speak are already allies for same-sex marriage,” Wood said.

According to Pat Miller, lecture program coordinator, there were 525 people in attendance at Wahls’ lecture.

“I would like to hear from someone against same-sex marriage. I want to understand where this fear comes from and why do they have this fear,” Wood said.