Feb. 3, 2011— -- The latest Internet hero is Zach Wahls, a 19-year-old University of Iowa engineering student and Eagle Scout whose parents are lesbians.
Wahls gave a three-minute speech Tuesday before Iowa legislators urging them not to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and civil unions.
His words went viral across the Internet and had nearly a half million hits on YouTube today.
"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," said Wahls. "And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero affect on the content of my character."
Introducing himself as a "sixth-generation Iowan," Wahls said he had achieved the Boy Scouts' highest rank and attained a 99th percentile on his college aptitude test.
"If I was your son, Mr. Chairman, I believe I would make you very proud," he testified.
"I'm not really so different from any of your children, said Wahls. "My family really isn't so different from yours. After all, your family doesn't derive its sense of worth from being told by the state, 'You're married, congratulations!'"
Wahls was one of hundreds who testified Monday before an Iowa House hearing on a proposed gay marriage ban. His mothers, Dr. Terry Wahls and Jacqueline Reger, were married after the Iowa Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2009.
He described his biological mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, as the "bravest woman I know."
Wahls didn't grasp the impact of his speech until the next day, when a friend told him, "Do you realize you are all over Facebook?"
"I had no idea what she was talking about," said Wahls. "It took up half of her news feed, and I saw the YouTube video, and it had 5,000 hits Tuesday afternoon.
"The response was overwhelming," said Wahls, who got barraged with calls from the media. "It was the most stressful snow day I have ever had."
His speech, however, fell on deaf ears. Three Democrats joined 59 Republicans to vote in favor of amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage, which passed by a 62-37 vote.
If approved by legislators and voters in 2013, the amendment to the constitution would ban gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and any government recognition of gay and lesbian couples in the state