19-Year-Old Defends Marriage Equality in Iowa House

You might tear up when you watch Zach Wahls speak about how he’s doing pretty well, thank you very much, despite having two moms who are married:

“If I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I would make you very proud,” Wahls confidently testified.

“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,” he added.

“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 affect on the content of my character.”

It’s infuriating that, hours after hearing that testimony, the Iowa House of Representatives voted 62-37 to approve a constitutional amendment that would overturn marriage equality.

Hopefully, the Iowa Senate won’t let that stand.

In the meantime, Christians everywhere should have to defend their decision to remain part of any church that would discriminate against Zach’s parents like this — and explain how Zach’s family is hurting marriage in the state of Iowa.

What a sad state of affairs when Zach’s parents could lose official state recognition for being in love, but the Republicans (and a few Democrats) in the Iowa House can get married and divorced as many times as they want without any problems at all.

  • arallyn

    One of my good friends has two moms, and he’s never really had a “father figure” in his life. I had a “perfect” nuclear family (Mom, Dad, little brother, golden retriever, white picket fence…). My parents would never be against gay marriage, but it’s not like I grew up in a spectacular environment, despite how “perfect” it looked from the outside.

    In terms of current character and position in life, my friend is doing much better than I am…not all attributable to his upbringing, but his parents were easily as good as mine, if not better.

  • Marty

    This is why secularists need to be more militant. The religious have no qualms about denying us our equal protection under the law. They would gleefully strip us of our civil liberties if they could. Militant doesn’t mean violent, but it does mean that I’m mad as hell and no more Mr. nice guy

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    I wonder can you really justify marriage equality.

    Because clearly 62 individuals raised by straight parents lack the basic moral character of Zach Wahls.

  • Rieux

    Marty, I agree, but I think there are adjectives to describe the attitude we need (outspoken, loud, public, brash, unashamed, vocal, unequivocal, candid, even angry… etc!) that are better than “militant.” Unfortunately, “militant” connotes that we’re interested in violence, especially in a society that’s predisposed to dislike and (wherever it suits their demeaning purposes) misinterpret us.

    I suggest we don’t lend credence to that adjective. I’m all for being out’n’loud’n’proud, even when it makes privileged religious folks uncomfortable, but I think “militant” is a step too far.

  • Methodissed

    I was in the audience for this testimony. In person it was even more powerful.

    The opposition consisted entirely of conservative preachers and other religious nuts, many of whom quoted verses from their old storybook. Their unspoken intro was, “My invisible friend wasn’t able to make it tonight, so I’m here to speak on his behalf.”

    The most entertaining moment came when a bigot complained about how he has been directly harmed by the gay rights movement and the resulting tolerance in public schools. He said, “I had to remove my kids from public school and pay for private school.”

    In the end, not one single Republican was swayed, and three Democrats sided with them. Ideology is a powerful thing.

  • tim

    The Iowa Senate has already killed the measure. Which will be used against them in the next election.

  • Steve

    Then there is this rare thing:
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/annapolis/2011/02/gop_senator_announces_support.html

    A Republican politician saying that although he strongly believes in god, the country isn’t a theocracy and that he can’t make decisions based on his faith.

    “However, while my faith may teach that marriage is between a man and a woman, our government is not a theocracy. As the state senator from District 9, I represent everyone in my district, regardless of their faith. Therefore, while my spiritual life is extremely important to me, it cannot be the sole basis for my decisions as a state senator.”

    That must have been a first. Maybe there is such a thing as miracles.

  • bernerbits

    Then there is this rare thing:
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/annapolis/2011/02/gop_senator_announces_support.html

    A Republican politician saying that although he strongly believes in god, the country isn’t a theocracy and that he can’t make decisions based on his faith.

    “However, while my faith may teach that marriage is between a man and a woman, our government is not a theocracy. As the state senator from District 9, I represent everyone in my district, regardless of their faith. Therefore, while my spiritual life is extremely important to me, it cannot be the sole basis for my decisions as a state senator.”

    That must have been a first. Maybe there is such a thing as miracles.

    Generally, when a GOP politician pulls something like that, they’re kicked out of the GOP.

  • MaryD

    Totally irrelevant. A child could be brought up by grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents or even wolves, marriage doesn’t come into it.

    Marriage serves the purposes of society; homosexuality serves the purposes of certain individuals. Self, self, self that is what it is all about, this lad doesn’t even figure in the equation.

  • Claudia

    In the meantime, Christians everywhere should have to defend their decision to remain part of any church that would discriminate against Zach’s parents like this — and explain how Zach’s family is hurting marriage in the state of Iowa.

    We have nothing but love for people like Zach and his mother, as well as the other woman, even though their lifestyle is sinful and will lead to an eternity of hell, but that’s only because the Lord loves them.

    All we’re arguing is that marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s the traditional marriage. Just look at the Bible. Well, of course most of those guys had lots of wives but if you read the Bible in context you’ll see that God doesn’t want us to do that now. But the rule about homosexuality is still totally current.

    Besides marriage is a holy union, which is why we are just as vocal about illegalizing marriage by atheists. If gay marriage were legal, churches would be forced to perform them, the same way the Catholic church is now forced to grant divorce. Also, those churches that alread perform religious gay marriages don’t count, because they aren’t true Christians.

    The state shouldn’t be promoting as marriage something that won’t lead to procreation. Except for old people. Also the infertile. Well any male-female pairing will do. After all, marriage is a sacred institution. Just ask Rev. Elvis Presley, at the Drive-Thru wedding chapel and rib joint in Vegas. At least he told me that was his name when I married my 3rd husband. Or was that my 2nd? I forget, but the point is it those marriages would lose their deep, spiritual meaning if that elderly couple of guys across the street could sign a piece of paper saying that they’re married.

  • BlueRidgeLady

    That really was a moving speech. I would be so proud if that were my kid.

    I’m most appalled by Christians who are anti-gay because according to them, Jesus was down with all folks, yet they are actively restricting the rights of other human beings. It mostly angers me because no one is forcing anyone to get gay married. It doesn’t AFFECT straight people in any way. So on top of being against the idea of Jesus’ love for mankind and all that, it’s just malicious as well.

    It’s good to put a face on one of those hypothetical “damaged-by-teh-gay-momz” kids.

  • Josephine

    At Mary: I don’t see how homosexuality serves “self” any more than heterosexuality does. If you refer to the lack of reproduction, I assume you don’t support marriage for any heterosexual couple who doesn’t have children- maybe they’re infertile, maybe they would rather adopt, maybe they don’t want children at all. There is nothing wrong with any of those, so I do not understand your argument at all.

    Homosexuals serve the purpose of society all the time, because they are normal people. They contribute to the community, they adopt children, they hold employment. I am not really sure why their marriages would serve the purpose of society less than a heterosexual marriage would.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    If Jesus was a historical figure, one explanation for him being 30 something and unmarried is that he was gay and didn’t get married because the Philistines of his time didn’t allow it. And then we didn’t know about Jesus’ sexual preferences because the people who wrote about him were homophobic. Just conjecture but something to think about.

  • Alan E.

    Generally, when a GOP politician pulls something like that, they’re kicked out of the GOP.

    He was the Minority Leader, but he stepped down from the position.

  • monyNH

    @Claudia,

    If marriage is a “holy union”, why does it not count until I’ve been to my town clerk’s office and filled out the requisite paperwork? How are people whose weddings were officiated by a judge considered married in the eyes of the law?

    The Bible may be the guideline by which you live your life, but it is not mine, nor is it that of our nation’s. You have no place pressing your tired religious beliefs on your fellow citizens, and neither does any elected official.

  • http://askanatheist.tv/ pinkocommie

    Totally irrelevant. A child could be brought up by grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents or even wolves, marriage doesn’t come into it.

    Unfortunately, a lot of religious groups try to defend inequality in marriage rights by claiming that gay marriage will hurt the kids (Oh won’t you please think of the children?!?) so as a counter to that, I think it’s entirely relevant. It shouldn’t be, but the anti-homosexual side is making it relevant.

    Marriage serves the purposes of society; homosexuality serves the purposes of certain individuals. Self, self, self that is what it is all about, this lad doesn’t even figure in the equation.

    Whaaaa? How does the way in which you have sex within your partnership dictate the effect of that partnership on society? I have anal sex ALL THE TIME with my husband – does that mean my marriage is less socially relevant or important than if I were only having nice, biblically sanctioned hetero sex? I might agree that being single leads to more self centered behavior than being married simply because marriage is by definition a partnership – but that would include both gay and straight single people and both gay and straight married people.

  • Alan E.

    I started to respond to Claudia, but then I recognized the Poe as I read further. Thank FSM that I didn’t click Submit yet.

  • Kyle Scott

    People often ask me why I am such an outspoken atheist, why I can’t just have my opinions and shut up. This is yet another example.

    Churches are not required to marry anyone. They are free to continue in their bigoted, misogynistic practices. This is not a church issue. This is simply an issue of equal rights before the law.

    I hope that my son grows up to have the courage of that young man.

  • monyNH

    I’m an idiot…sorry Claudia! I thought I’d read through your whole post, but I guess I didn’t. :( Comment Fail.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @MaryD:

    Homophobia is ugly.

    There is no secular reason to deny marriage to gay couples. None. If you argue that the reason behind marriage is related to procreation, you’re wrong, else those couples who are too old, infertile, or do not desire children would be equal targets for peoples’ hateful homophobia.

    @Alan E:

    I was the same way, TBH. Poe’s Law strikes again.

  • Rieux

    Guys, guys, you clearly need to get to know Claudia! Homophobic Christianity is not exactly her bag… except sarcastically, of course.

  • Robin (not Robyn)

    If a church really has some kind of idiotic need to prevent gay marriage amongst its’ own members, that’s hunky-dory with me. It’s when they try to impose their view of what constitutes a marriage on people who aren’t in their pews that it’s a problem. That’s what freedom of (and from) religion is all about.

    But, unfortunately, it’s these churches who are in the position to dictate terms to everyone. (And conservatives complain about liberals being elitist? Gimme a break!)

    And what about the churches who actually want to marry their same-sex couples who are members? Why do the anti-gay ministries get preferential treatment to the gay-friendly ones? (Talk about elitism!)

    I hope that more and more daughters and sons of conservative politicians come out in favor of lesbian and gay marriage. Hell, I hope their lesbian and gay children have the courage to come out.

  • Cortex

    @MaryD,

    What purposes of society is marriage essential to? And how is homosexuality all about the self? Wouldn’t that be called autosexuality?

  • Claudia

    Thanks for making me smile gang. Nothing completes a good Poe quite like being absolutely off-the-wall batshit and still getting mistaken for the real thing! monyNH, not a problem at all, we’ve all been fooled before. It took me a long time to believe that “If humans came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” was not some smart-ass atheist parody but a real “argument” that creationists make.

  • http://gratefultobeofthisworld.blogspot.com Dea

    Awesome speech – I wish people could just realize that familes like Zach’s aren’t trying to take anything away from them.

  • Dan

    “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 affect on the content of my character.”

    IIIIIIIIII dunno. I see a pretty big difference over a lot of kids raised by straight couples – he seems smart and dignified, before he even turned 20. Most kids I know of that age are fucking crazy.

  • http://www.unmails.com Tyler

    Not to take away from this amazing talk, but I finally realized he sounds so much like Hayden Christensen it’s nuts.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @Dan:

    Aha! It’s the gay agenda! Get kids (by adoption/surrogacy/in-vitro) and turn them into upstanding, intelligent members of society!

    It’s so insidious! How evil of them! They’re going to destroy American values! I denounce my support for gay marriage this instant because of it! (j/k of course.)

  • Heidi

    @Mary:

    Secularism serves the purposes of society; religion serves the purposes of certain individuals. Self, self, self that is what it is all about, you don’t even figure in the equation.

    These are the people who make me afraid to leave Massachusetts. And no, I’m not gay.

  • The Pint

    Claudia, that was so full of win, thanks for the chuckles!

  • Danni

    I have never quite understood why there is such an issue with allowing equality with homosexual and heterosexual marriages and I am a Christian. Weather I believe homosexual marriage was intended by God or not is a completely different issue, and anyone who wants to discuss it with me can. But I don’t believe that my relationship with Christ gives me the right to restrict someone else’s life. Let people choose for themselves what relationship they want to enter into.

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

    MaryD said:

    Totally irrelevant. A child could be brought up by grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents or even wolves, marriage doesn’t come into it.

    YES, marriage does come into the picture because not having the same marriage rights as straight couples places additional economic, legal, and social burdens upon LGBT families that straight families don’t face. This burden effects children being raised by LGBT families.

    Who is responsible for that burden? Try this answer: a society that caters to heterosexual people’s needs while treating LGBT people like unwanted trash. It’s selfish, prejudiced individuals such as yourself who ensure that this burden continues.

    Marriage serves the purposes of society;

    Indeed, it comes with a variety of rights and privileges that serve as an aid in raising children within a stable social unit, thus effecting the future of society as a whole. See my above comment regarding the problems of withholding these rights and privileges.

    homosexuality serves the purposes of certain individuals. Self, self, self that is what it is all about, this lad doesn’t even figure in the equation.

    I see. So, heterosexuality automatically leads people into paths that are more selfless and caring than LGBT people? How many straight people bring children into unwholesome, damaging family situations simply because the default potential of unprotected heterosexual sex is pregnancy and birth? How often to same-sex couples have children “by accident”? I can certainly see the advantage that biology grants to same-sex families. Should I then argue that LGBT relationships are superior? I could, but I think that would be a pretty messed up path to walk down.

    Mary, your comment reveals prejudices which dismiss LGBT people as more selfish and uncaring than straight people. You know what? The bottom line is that this is about love, regardless of the combination of genitals involved. Trying to establish a hierarchy that positions some forms of love as superior to others is incredibly heartless. If your prejudice renders you incapable of recognizing the beauty of the love that exists between two people simply because you don’t like the genitals they posses, then I pity you.

    There’s plenty of violence, hatred, and tragedy in the world. Why don’t you focus on those issues instead? The world needs more love, not less.

  • Samiimas

    On a slightly related subject this is why SMBC is my favorite comic:

    http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2011/02/breaking-nom-loves-pride-flags.html

    If someone hotlinked to my site I probably would have just replaced the image with porn instead of doing something classy like that.

  • Dan W

    Fortunately, the Iowa Senate isn’t letting this crap get through. http://iowaindependent.com/51436/senate-dems-vote-down-push-for-gay-marriage-ban

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    “You might tear up when you watch Zach Wahls speak….”

    I did.

    What he said was so simple ~ simple because it’s what anyone who came from a truly loving, supportive family would say about their family.

    It boggles my mind that there are some who are incapable of ‘getting’ this.

  • http://~ AxeGrrl

    pinkocommie wrote:

    I have anal sex ALL THE TIME with my husband – does that mean my marriage is less socially relevant or important than if I were only having nice, biblically sanctioned hetero sex?

    Ok, that needs to be available in t-shirt or bumper sticker form now! :)

  • «bønez-brigade»

    test

  • stogoe

    I started to respond to Claudia, but then I recognized the Poe as I read further. Thank FSM that I didn’t click Submit yet.

    Yeah, she got me, too.

  • Steve

    Here he is on MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHYpAEK9DCc

    The original video has almost a million views now

  • «bønez-brigade»

    Meguesses my comment was marked as spam for unknown reasons. I just wanted to say that Zach’s speech was awesome but that the vote was atrocious.

  • AwesometownDog

    OK…here’s something you may not want to hear, but…as an athiest, I still am willing to listen to my religious friends points of view. Here’s something I’ve heard repeatedly: It’s the “LGBT” grouping – I honestly think many people don’t really understand that moniker. They say something like, “Well, I could be OK with the idea of allowing gay parents, but that whole “bi- or tri- or whatever” thing lets cross-dressers and all sorts of weird foot-fetish-y types in to. I can’t go along with that”.
    All I’m saying is that there is a perception or lack of understanding that the gay community should be more aware of. Even some of the more tolerant religious folks just can’t go for the whole group at once.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    @AwesometownDog:

    LGBT needs to be all together because it’s not a grouping according to solely sexual orientation, but about gender roles. ZinniaJones had a fantastic breakdown over the entire thing on her (?) YouTube channel.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYbP0uko9dg


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