Friday, February 4, 2011

Zach Wahls on the Last Word

A few days ago we posted a video of Zach Wahls defending his family, which is under attack by the Republican Party in Iowa, because the parents are both women. Zach gave a coherent response to the incoherent rhetoric that the Republicans throw around. Yesterday, we published a guest essay by Zach. Here is an interview with Zach, his mothers, and his sister.

What I find interesting is that Zach, as a high school student, wrote an essay for the Des Moines Register advocating that the state get out of marriage. Now many libertarians propose this, but seem to think it can mean that the state ends all legal recognitions. That is naive given the complex web of laws that are all tied to the marriage status. But Zach's proposal is one that comes close to the "radical" libertarian position and yet recognizes the legal realities. (More below the video.)

Wahl's proposal says that the state should only have legal recognition for "civil unions" and not call the legal aspect of such relationships "marriage." Instead, marriage should be left to private institutions, such as churches. I see nothing wrong with this from a libertarian perspective but I doubt it will satisfy the anti-gay Republicans. The Religious Right, which controls the GOP, is not "defending marriage." They are attacking gay people. This is precisely why the measure, which Zach testified about, is meant to not only ban gay marriage but make illegal civil unions or even domestic partnerships. Repeatedly Republicans have offered bills to deny gay couples any legal rights, let alone marriage.

Zach did not understand the fire he lit. He says after his testimony "I got in the car and drove home, listening to developments about Egypt. I thought it was pretty much open and closed." He didn't realize that a video of his presentation would go viral on Youtube, with well over 1 million views in just two days. Conservatives are unhappy. One conservative activists claimed Zach's speech was "emotional buillying." Considering how many gay teens have killed themselves over bullying at school, this is a rich accusation, especially since all Zach did was tell the truth about his family. But the truth is upsetting to those leading this inequality campaign. Here is Wahl's 2009 essay on getting the state out of the marriage business.

As the son of a same-sex couple in Iowa, one of the first test-tube babies of a lesbian mother nationwide, I was elated Friday to learn that the Iowa Supreme Court had unanimously struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in Iowa.
While a majority of Iowans remain opposed to same-sex marriage, and it could be prohibited again with an amendment to the Iowa Constitution by 2011 or 2012, this decision brings Iowa the unique opportunity of setting a national, common-sense precedent.
Instead of trying to protect the right of same-sex couples to marry, which is political suicide for the fragile Democratic majority, the Iowa General Assembly ought to move to clarify the difference between marriage and civil unions. A majority of Americans, and Iowans, according to a December 2008 Newsweek Poll, support at least civil unions for same-sex couples. It would take a brave lawmaker, but one ought to propose a piece of legislation to completely remove government from the marriage process altogether, leaving a religious ceremony to religious institutions, and make civil unions, accessible by any two people, including those of the same sex, the norm for legal benefits.
Such legislation would not only satisfy strict constructionist conservatives, but would allow the benefits and consequences that we currently associate with marriage to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation.
The election of 2008 swept into office politicians who recognize the normalcy of same-sex couples and their families. It must be realized that the sex of one’s parents does not have an unusually profound effect on the life of the child.
I stand as living proof that one can be raised by a same-sex couple, and a couple plagued by the grueling trials of progressive multiple sclerosis at that, and still turn out all right. I have experienced success in speech and debate, journalism and academics, am politically involved in my community and have received acceptance to prestigious colleges across the country.
Same-sex parents are not, by definition, unfit to parent, and same-sex families are not, by definition, any more troubled than “regular” families. I have found positive male role models in my life who have set outstanding examples for my own behavior, but the strength demonstrated by my MS-stricken biological mother has been surpassed by none I have met. It is with great pride that I call myself her son. And soon, I hope, it will be with great pride that she calls her partner, Jackie, her wife.
The Iowa Supreme Court should be commended for its courage in this decision, but it must be remembered that this is not an end in and of itself. The struggle for true equality will continue, and adopting the civil-union legislation is one of the best ways to do it.

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