That slick sumbitch is Zach Wahls, a 19 year-old University of Iowa student who spoke before the Iowa House of Representatives yesterday to oppose the Iowa Marriage Amendment, which would define marriage as between a man and a woman. Wahls was raised by a committed lesbian couple—which technically makes him a slick sumbitches—and, as you can see, he constitutes a strong counterargument to the claim that a child raised by same-sex parents could not possibly turn out normal.* The IMA passed the house, but this video is likely to change a few minds, or at least cement minds already inclined in that direction. I remain pretty thrilled by it, but my friend Fletch Dogg—who, when he is not playing devil’s advocate, is a regular advocate—raised an interesting question: How is this video different from Tim Tebow’s pro-life Super Bowl ad, which makes me angry?
Let’s ignore the main difference, which is that Zach Wahls has to make his video on a Handicam and post it on YouTube, whereas Tim Tebow gets a professionally-produced ad during the damn Super Bowl just for not getting aborted (okay, and being one of the better quarterbacks in NCAA history, but seriously: eff the Gators.) Besides that, both videos function in the same way. Each asks the viewer to reconsider his position on a controversial social issue in light of one person’s experience, using an anecdotal argument to influence a moral debate.
For those of us who support abortion as late as the 81st trimester, the argument that you shouldn’t get one because your kid might turn out to be a Heisman candidate seemed risible. One could just as easily* make the same commercial with Hitler playfully tackling his mother and then thanking her for not aborting him and sending him to art school instead. Better yet, you could use one of the millions of children born to single mothers, teenagers, rape victims, and other unwilling parents whose kids are statistically likely to grow up with enormous disadvantages.
Here, to my mind, is the difference between Tim Tebow and Zach Wahls. Both men are anecdotal arguments for certain social positions, but the Wahls Argument exists in the absence of empirical evidence, not as a substitute for it. Perhaps this statement will expose my ignorance, but there aren’t millions of kids raised by gay parents out there waiting to be the subject of broad studies. Where the abortion debate has reams of quantitative evidence on both sides, the question of whether gay parents can effectively raise children has been mostly hypothetical. Wahls disproves the hypothesis that the kids of same-sex parents can’t be normal.
The counterargument, of course, is to say that this one guy is exceptionally smart and capable, but most kids with two mothers would grow up unnaturally fixated on macramé and give you a kitten on the second date. That might be true, but I have exactly zero reasons to think it is and one reason to think it ain’t. One reason isn’t enough to start making laws about who can get married, but it’s the most we’ve been able to pile together thus far.