Letting love speak for itself

Zach Wahls, a 19-year-old University of Iowa student, is one of the latest internet sensations. In early February, he spoke to the Iowa House of Representatives in favor of gay marriage. The video of his speech quickly went viral on YouTube with over 1.5 million views within a matter of days.

With the eloquence of someone twice his age, Wahls addressed the crowd by describing his own experience as the son of two lesbian partners. "Our family really isn't so different from any other Iowa family," he said. "When I am home, we go to church together, we eat dinner, we go on vacations."

During his speech, Wahls emphasized the normalcy of his upbringing, as well as his own success. In his nineteen years he has earned an Eagle Scout and is a small business owner. He also scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT.

"If I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I would make you very proud," he continued. "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."

In this interview with Out & About Newspaper, we take a look at the life of this well-spoken, spiritually-grounded college student.

O&A: Tell us about your family.

Well, I'm the older of two kids. My sister, Zebby, is 16 years old and a junior in high school. I'm 19, and a second-year student at the University of Iowa studying environmental engineering. My biological mom, Terry, is an internal medicine physician who works at the local Veteran's Affairs Hospital and Clinic. My other mom, Jackie, is a nurse practitioner at the VA outpatient clinic.

O&A: When and where did you start going to church?

We're Unitarian Universalists and have been going to church since Zebby and I were little kids growing up in Wisconsin. When we moved back to Iowa, there was a much larger congregation in Iowa City, which was really awesome for us.

O&A: How did you feel about going to church as a kid? Did you like going?

I always liked it. I really liked reading the stories and learning about the Bible, but other religions too. Church, for me, was always a really comfortable and safe place. There weren't very many other places that felt like that.

O&A: Do you feel you have missed out on anything by having two moms as opposed to a mom and a dad?

I really don't. I've got plenty of friends who were raised by single parents, or have parents who have gone through a divorce and have two moms or two dads in that sense. I've also got friends who have a mom and a dad who were never there for their kids or just couldn't really be active in their kids' lives. I've been incredibly blessed with extraordinarily loving parents, and I'm so, so grateful for that.

O&A: Do you feel you gained anything by having two moms?

Again, not really. In some sense, you know, I certainly know what it's like to be told that your family is worth less than another or that your family---and therefore you---don't deserve something that somebody else has. So when I see that happening to other people, I can empathize. But it's not like having two moms, specifically, affected me in some way that having two loving parents, specifically, did not.

O&A: Do you feel your involvement with church as a youth has had any effect on you as an adult?

Oh, definitely. Church, for me, laid a foundation of solid, traditional values of love, loyalty and reverence. I've actually thought about attending divinity school and pursuing the ministry, but, as of today, I'm not planning on doing so.

O&A: What opportunities have you had since you spoke to the Iowa House of Representatives?

The opportunities have been incredible. Back in March, I went to Washington, D.C. to speak at a Human Rights Campaign. I am doing a lot of advocacy work and will continue to do so in the future.

O&A: What do you want to do when you graduate?

I'm hoping to work for the US Army Corps of Engineers in sustainable international development.

O&A: Many in the GLBT community feel marginalized from the Christian community…do you have any words of encouragement for them?

Jesus spoke passionately about the need to love all people. I think we forget that sometimes. Interpretations of the Bible have progressed quite a bit since it was originally recorded. I would be surprised if homosexuality is still a big religious issue in the future.

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