“What Makes a Family”
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 Terry 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 Jackie 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, Terry, 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.