Marry me, Zach Wahls

The Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. The Iowa House of Representatives voted to amend the state constitution to make same-sex marriage illegal again. Luckily, the amendment will probably die in the state senate, but that’s probably cold comfort to queer Iowans who have just watched their House of Reps vote in favor of second-class citizenship for same-sex couples. It’s probably cold-comfort to those Iowans who have been raised by same-sex couples, like 19-year-old Zach Wahls, who spoke at the hearing before the vote about how, even though he was raised by two women, he is a normal, thriving, healthy human being. “Not once,” he said, “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 impact on the content of my character.”

Full transcript below the jump. Oh, and Zach? Several Feministing contributors are developing large crushes on you. I won’t name any names, but they rhyme with “Shmaya” and “Shloe.” What can we say? We dig guys who dig equality.

Good evening Mr. Chairman, my name is Zach Wahls. I’m a sixth-generation Iowan and an engineering student at the University of Iowa, and I was raised by two women. My biological mother Terri told her grandparents that she was pregnant, that the artificial insemination had worked, and they wouldn’t even acknowledge it. It actually wasn’t until I was born and they succumbed to my infantile cuteness that they broke down and told her that they were thrilled to have another grandson. Unfortunately, neither of them would live to see her marry her partner Jacki of fifteen years when they wed in 2009. My younger sister and only sibling was born in 1994. We actually have the same anonymous donor, so we’re full siblings, which is really cool for me. I guess the point is that my family really isn’t so different from any other Iowa family. When I’m home, we go to church together. We eat dinner, we go on vacations. But, we have our hard times too; we get in fights. My mom, Terri, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. It is a devastating disease that put her in a wheelchair, so you know, we’ve had our struggles. 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 for our government.

Being a student at the University of Iowa, the topic of same sex marriage comes up quite frequently in class discussions. The question always comes down to, “Can gays even raise kids?” And the conversation gets quiet for a moment, because most people don’t really have an answer. And then I raise my hand and say, “Well actually, I was raised by a gay couple, and I’m doing pretty well.” I score in the 99th percentile on the ACT. I’m an Eagle Scout. I own and operate my own small business. If I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I’d make you very proud. I’m not 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!” The sense of family comes 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 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 voting for the first time in the history of our state to codify discrimination into our constitution, a constitution that but for the proposed amendment is the least amended constitution in the United States of America. You are telling Iowans, “Some among you are second-class citizens who do not have the right to marry the person you love.” So will this vote affect my family? Would it affect yours? In the next two hours, 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. And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero impact on the content of my character. Thank you.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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Join the Conversation

  • Emily

    This guy should run for office. Also, add Shmemily to the list of people with crushes.

  • Maya

    That was a really well-written, well-delivered speech that made the message very clear. It’s good to have people like him speak out on their opinions and experiences.

    Add another Shmaya to the list of crushes!

  • Amanda

    What an amazingly articulate and intelligent guy. I really hope that people will listen to him.

  • Nick Cohea

    Now _that_ is what allyship looks like!

  • Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

    Ya’ll should be thanking his Mommas for raising a fine young man. They deserve all the credit……Also a treat for all of you

  • Rachel

    What an amazing guy! I’m really bad at rhyming, so I’ll just say I have a little crush on him too =P. I always find it to be amusing that lawmakers seem to assume that “gayness” is catching. If sexuality was so contagious, wouldn’t heterosexual couples only raise heterosexual kids?

  • Tyler Healey

    How did homie speak so well and he’s only 19? He’s like the Tiger Woods of public speaking. Why isn’t he at Harvard?

    Confession: I get massively jealous when I read other girls saying they have a crush on a guy. It makes me want to get on TV and make a great speech.