As a teen, Zach Wahls spoke out to defend his lesbian moms – now he’s on track to become a state senator
A teen who famously told lawmakers to respect the rights of his same-sex parents is now an adult – and he’s taking on anti-LGBT Republicans directly.
Zach Wahls, who was raised by two lesbian mothers in Iowa, made headlines in 2011 when he spoke to lawmakers in the state to urge them not to pass an anti-gay marriage law.
Aged 19 at the time, Wahls stood before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee and urged Republicans to scrap their plans to push a constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex unions.
He spoke movingly about his own experience of being raised by two mothers who were denied the right to marry, and the love that they gave him.
But the GOP in the state continue to oppose equality, and Wahls, now 26, is taking them on directly.
This week, Wahls was selected as the the Democratic candidate to stand for the Iowa state senate in District 37 – putting him on course for election to the chamber.
He received 59.6 percent of the vote in the primary, well above his nearest competitor Janice Weiner who had 34.8 percent.
The seat was previously held unopposed by Democrat Robert Dvorsky, who did not stand for re-election.
Wahls said: “I think it’s a sign people here are hungry for new blood in the Iowa Legislature and are ready for the next generation of leadership.
“It means a lot to me the community is trusting me with that leadership role.”
He added: “What makes a community is our commitment to each other. Thank you for putting your faith in me. Tonight I renew my commitment to you as your Democratic nominee for Senate District 37.
“Thank YOU, Senate District 37!
“Thank you all for your hard work and support. And a big thanks to all who came out across Iowa and made their voices heard tonight. Onward to November!”
The candidate is also the founder of Scouts for Equality, a group that convinced the Boy Scouts of America to end a ban on gay scouts, despite immense pressure from the Mormon Church.
Wahls carried a testimonial on his website from his former teacher Mitch Gross, who spoke about the candidate’s LGBT activism.
Gross explained: “I still remember Zach as a student, before he gave his now-famous speech to the Iowa legislature about his two moms. He was thoughtful, listened carefully in class, supported his classmates, and worked hard.
“A few years after he graduated, I watched the video of his short speech to the Iowa legislature about growing up with lesbian parents here in Iowa. In the aftermath of his speech, I helped support him as he navigated the incredible amount of attention he gained and responsibility he shouldered after the video went viral.”
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He added: “I watched, and assisted where necessary, as he took up the cause of marriage equality here in Iowa, and LGBT rights across the country.
“He’s an Eagle Scout, and he co-founded Scouts for Equality, an organization of former Scouts that led the fight to end discrimination against LGBT people in the Boy Scouts of America.
“But along the way, he never forgot where he came from. He was always willing to meet with students and young people in our area to remind them about the importance of treating all people with respect, including at our high school and at the University of Iowa.”
He added: “Healthcare, education, and workers’ rights are under attack here in Iowa, and we need somebody like Zach who can stand up and speak truth to power.
“Even though it feels like it was just yesterday that he was a student in my U.S. History class, he already has a strong track record of leadership and doing the right thing.
“My wife and I are co-chairing his campaign because we know he’ll bring people together to fight for the values we all share, and I hope you’ll join us in supporting him.”