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Keynote speaker Zach Wahls talks to a group of students about growing up with two mothers and the youtube video of his speech to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee against an amendment in the house to ban Gay marriage in Iowa.

Speaker refutes same-sex marriage misconceptions

Zach Wahls grew up in a normal family. He played football, cut himself shaving and just so happened to have a YouTube video of himself defending his two mothers’ marriage in the Iowa state legislature, generating almost 20 million hits.

Wahls spoke about these experiences in his speech “What Makes a Family?” as part of LGBT Pride Week in Baker University Center Ballroom on Tuesday.

Wahls discussed different types of arguments against marriage equality. Having a hard time identifying with those who combat marriage equality, he said that arguments over sub-issues like Chick-fil-A’s funding of religious organizations that oppose marriage equality, only make the real problems “murky.”

“This turns into a muck fest,” he said. “When we stop speaking about love and equality and start arguing about chicken sandwiches, then we all lose and there isn’t much room for those of us who just prefer hamburgers.”

For much of the speech, Wahls discussed his family in a lighthearted fashion, sharing his experiences growing up with two mothers, the questions he is asked most often and the misconceptions about same-sex parents.

“People often times ask me: ‘Who taught you how to shave? Who taught you about courage?,’ ” he said. “They ask, ‘Which one of your moms is the “manly” one?’ And I think it’s so weird that people think this way. It’s like the ’50s. People don’t fit into these neat little gendered boxes like we’d want them to.”

Despite Wahls’s approach, he grew solemn and sentimental when speaking about his biological mother, Terry, and her battle with multiple sclerosis. He spoke candidly about the legal difficulties during her treatment when the family lived in Wisconsin; the state did not recognize same-sex marriages.  

Wahls closed with a question-and-answer session in which he talked about his work with the Boy Scouts of America and his organization Scouts for Equality, which will begin its grassroots movement this week to aid the fight in the vote to reverse the Scouts’ discrimination policy.

Before Wahls’ speech, Ohio University’s version of the popular video series “It Gets Better” was screened as well. The video featured students, faculty and community members encouraging LGBTA youth that life does get better for them.

“We want everyone to know we are an accepting and safe place for everyone including our LGBT students,” said President Roderick McDavis in the video.

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