Watch the original video below.
Correction: An earlier version of this post, incorrectly stated that Zach Wahls spoke before the Iowa Senate. He spoke before the Iowa House of Representatives. The earlier entry also stated that the Internet fame broke up Wahls and his girlfriend. Not true, Wahls corrects. He was single before his speech and he is single now.
Last February, a 19-year-old, self-described sixth-generation Iowan stood before an Iowa House of Representatives to argue against a state constitutional amendment. The teenager, Zach Wahls, stood up at the podium and gave a three-minute speech about his life in a two-mothers home.
After the video was posted to YouTube, Wahls became an Internet celebrity, praised for his eloquent and impassioned speech. Now, nine months later, Wahls appeared back online Wednesday night. He visited the social media site Reddit Wednesday night in the popular “Ask Me Anything” section, with users writing in to talk to him about his experience. (He photographed himself, seen above, to prove his identity.)
His appearance on Reddit set off a brief resurgence of Internet interest in the video, with people passing around his appearance once more.
In February, Iowa was considering an amendment that would ban same-sex marriages in one of the six states in the United States that legally recognizes it.
“In my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple,” Wahls told the legislative panel. “And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero affect on the content of my character.”
The speech made Wahls an instant celebrity. “I had no idea the words I was about to speak would resonate,” Wahls would say six months later. “I had no idea [of] the amount of support I would receive.”
Wahls said the publicity around the video helped changed the debate in Iowa. While the amendment passed the House, the Iowa Senate, led by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, did not take the issue up, effectively killing the bill. Gay marriage remains fully legal in Iowa and it looks as if it will remain that way for some time. The Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen told the Associated Press on Tuesday he had no intentions of revisiting the issue of gay marriage.
Since his viral stardom, Wahls has been working on a book tentatively called, “My Two Moms: Everything I Needed to Know About Gay Marriage I Learned in Boy Scouts.”
On his chat on Reddit, Wahls comes across much as he does in his speech — witty, self-effacing and earnest. When many respondents encouraged him to enter politics, Wahls replied he’d rather work for a politician than be in the spotlight himself — something he learned after the fame put his life under a microscope. He later admits he’s not in a relationship, to the delight of his Reddit fans. “Turns out ‘Internet famous’ isn’t actually good at generating a relationship,” he writes.
He said he hadn’t been much of an activist before his speech, though he did count himself an “Iowan hipster,” because he supported “Obama before it was cool.” However, the “constitutional amendment being introduced, combined with the fact that this was at the tail end of that string of suicides by gay and lesbian kids, was a huge wake up call. I was nervous at first, but once you realize that you’re there to defend your family, you find your voice pretty quick.”
Watch Wahls original speech here: