Next time someone wants to argue with you about whether gays and lesbians should have the same right to marry that we do, show them this video from February that’s making the rounds again because the Iowa caucuses are a few weeks away. It’s Zach Wahls, a 19-year-old University of Iowa student with two mothers who spoke about the strength of his family during a public forum before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee, which was considering a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Despite remarks like Zach’s the Republican-controlled Iowa House did pass the ban, but the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate hasn’t voted on it (and likely won’t anytime soon).
What was the impact on Zach of the video going viral? He wrote this week in The Daily Beast:
As crazy and awesome as this ride has been so far, I had decided to temporarily suspend my studies to focus on advocacy work because of a Facebook message I received back in February. At the guy’s request, I’m withholding his name, but here it is, verbatim: “man, i just watched your video on youtube. being from the south, the deep south, I have been raised ‘anti-gay.’ Pardon the slur. but that completely changed my view on the subject. Just amazing. Im leaving for the army in two weeks and was pretty upset about don’t ask don’t tell being repealed but again you changed my view on that. I just thought it would be nice for you to know you truley opened someones eyes. Thank you.”
On the one hand, it’s cool to know that folks like Ellen DeGeneres, Ashton Kutcher, Rosie O’Donnell, and Melissa Etheridge know who I am, thanks to my video. But, sorry, stars, the previous message was way better. It’s a testament to the power of stories to change minds and a testament, too, to our willingness to reevaluate long-held convictions. And it’s that willingness—that open-mindedness—that has driven progress in this country for centuries. It is at the core of what made America possible in the first place.
In addition, Zach is finishing a book entitled “My Two Moms: Everything I Needed to Know About Gay Marriage I Learned in Boy Scouts,” which will be published next spring.