My Two Moms: Zach Wahls Brings His Message of Equality to UNO Human Rights Lecture Series
Zach Wahls may not be what you expect the son of same sex parents to look like. And that’s the point. He’s a strapping young man, an Eagle Scout and an entrepreneur who also just happens to be the product of lesbian partners he calls “my two moms,” which is also the title of his 2012 book. He became a gay marriage and gay parents advocate when his personal 2011 testimony before Iowa lawmakers in support of LGBT equality went viral on YouTube. He’s a much in demand speaker today and my story below for The Reader (www.thereader.com) appears in advance of his March 12 appearance for the Shirley and Leonard Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights in Omaha.
Zach Wahls testifying before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee
My Two Moms: Zach Wahls Brings His Message of Equality to UNO Human Rights Lecture Series
©by Leo Adam Biga
Soon to appear in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
With gay marriage being assailed during an Iowa House Judiciary Committee public hearing in 2011 Zach Wahls offered counter testimony that not only charged the proceedings but the national dialogue about the issue.
Raised by same sex partners, Wahls made the case that sexual preference has nothing to do with effective parenting. He used himself as a case in point. The 21-year-old University of Iowa student and Eagle Scout, who happens to be straight, owns and operates his own tutoring business, Iowa City Learns, that hires local high school students to tutor peer students.
What Wahls spoke that afternoon became a YouTube sensation and ever since he’s emerged as a leading LGBT advocate.
His 2012 book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family, distills his thoughts and experiences as the son of a lesbian couple. The book’s message picks up where his testimony ended, when he said “the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero impact on the content of my character,” and frames his frequent public talks. He’s the featured speaker for the March 12 Shirley and Leonard Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights at the Thompson Alumni Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His 7 p.m. address is free and open to the public.
Wahls will emphasize what unites people, not divides them.
“I obviously grew up in a family that is in some ways very different from the median American family,” he says, “but at the end of the day I think there’s much more that makes us similar to most other American families than makes us different. So my remarks are really going to be focused on trying to find this common ground.”
Wahls with his two moms, holding his speech, relaxing at home, ©Ackerman and Gruber for People Magazine
The 2011 plea he made before Iowa legislators did not stop the Republican-controlled Iowa House from passing the same sex ban, which the Democrat-majority Senate has thus far blocked. But the argument he made for gay marriage and parenting resonated far beyond the confines of that state debate.
“My family really isn’t so different from any other Iowa family,” he told lawmakers. “When I’m home, we go to church together. We eat dinner, we go on vacations. But we have our hard times too. 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…
“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 telling Iowans, ‘Some among you are second-class citizens who do not have the right to marry the person you love.’ 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.”a
“It’s an interesting place to find one’s self, no doubt about it, especially at such a young age,” he says of the notoriety. “The thing a lot of folks don’t necessarily understand is that when you are the son of a same sex couple, especially in a place like Iowa or Wisconsin, where I was born, you are already an ambassador simply because there aren’t a whole lot of us. And so growing up I was really the only kid that a lot of folks knew who had gay parents and that put a certain amount of pressure on me when I was younger.”
Active in the Scouts for Equality campaign to end the ban on gays in the Boy Scouts, he’s hopeful a policy change is near. He says the organization is listening to the Scout community and trying to formulate equality language to be voted on May 24 at the meeting of its national council.
He’s embraced the activist role that’s come his way and is encouraged by the support he’s encountered in his many travels.
“Over the last two years now I’ve had this incredible opportunity to go all over the country and have a conversation with people who are similar to me, who are different from me about this question and this debate the nation is currently having about marriage and family and tried to make some sense of it.
“My message really resonates with people both on the left and the right politically.
In my generation I’ve found there are increasingly very few people who view this as a partisan issue and it think that is a very good thing. As I’ve had the chance to speak with young conservatives and liberals and libertarians I’ve found there’s interest in coming together to find solutions and a desire for collaboration and problem solving and less interest in fighting this culture war that’s dominated American politics.”
He says his advocacy role “has absolutely changed me,” adding, “When my generation was growing up we were always told by our guidance counselors that we could change the world. I think a lot of us thought it was b.s.. We didn’t necessarily think it was true and this showed me that well, actually, it is true. There is nothing more powerful than an idea thats time has come.”
Several times now, he says, people have told him his words have helped change their minds about gay marriage and parenting and he calls this feedback “a very powerful reminder of the ability we all have to impact other people’s lives and to expose them to different ideas and new points of view.”
Follow Wahls on Facebook and via his website, http://www.zachwahls.com.
- Author Wahls to speak at Owens (toledoblade.com)
- Zach Wahls’ plea on behalf of lesbian mothers became most-watched YouTube political video of 2011 (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Zach Wahls presents 275,000 petitions to Boy Scouts, demanding group allow gays and lesbians (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Zach Wahls On Boy Scouts: Ban Illustrates “Abdication Of Leadership” (queerty.com)
Author-journalist-blogger Leo Adam Biga resides in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. He writes newspaper-magazine stories about people, their passions, and their magnificent obsessions. He's the author of the books "Alexander Payne: His Journey in Film – A Reporter's Perspective 1998-2012," a compilation of his journalism about the acclaimed filmmaker, and "Open Wide" a biograpy of Mark Manhart. Biga co-edited "Memories of the Jewish Midwest: Mom and Pop Grocery Stores." His popular blog, leoadambiga.wordpress.com, is an online gallery of his work.
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