Reilly Van Dyke, Staff Writer
What makes a family? Author, speaker and social justice advocate Zach Wahls answered that very question on Monday night, November 26, in the ballroom of Hunt Union in front of an audience of students, teachers and community members.
Back in January of 2011, Wahls testified in front of the Iowa House Judiciary Committee to address the specific issue of same-sex marriage and what it means to truly be part of a family. Having been raised by two women, Wahls has written a book called, “My Two Moms: Everything I Need to Know about Gay Marriage I Learned in Boy Scouts.”
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was pushed through Congress by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and passed by President Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. Since having been passed, there has been much controversy over this bill, and in 2011, it was found to be unconstitutional. In 2009, same-sex marriage was legalized in Iowa.
Wahls spoke with compassion and intelligence while addressing the controversial issue of marriage. He challenged and engaged his audience with insightful questions, such as, “What does the ‘sanctity of marriage’ mean?”
Since the video of him speaking in Des Moines, Iowa went viral over the internet, Wahls’ life has completely changed. He’s been interviewed by MSNBC and CBS, and has talked to people all over the country.
When asked what his overall message is, he said, “Love makes a family. The sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other, so that we can work through the hard times in order to make it to the good ones.”
He listed some of the questions many people have asked him upon realizing that he was raised by two moms. One question was, “How did you learn to be a man?” Wahls explained that he feels he learned “good” values, not “man” values growing up from his moms and through activities like boy scouts. He went on to become an Eagle Scout, which he said taught him life skills and values.
Wahls said, “We learn over time what it means to be a man or a woman. Values are learned, not taught. And I’ve been asked, ‘Am I different? Is my family different?’ Of course—every family is different. What matters to kids is having parents that are willing to put in the time and the effort to raise them with love and commitment.”
He also spent time talking about what it was like growing up and the reactions he received from others. Wahls said it wasn’t always easy, and that he was angry at his moms at one point growing up—not because of who they were, but because of the way he was treated by his peers in school. However, it was clear to see how his feelings have changed when he said, “People won’t stand up for you until you’re willing to stand up for yourself.”