Having two moms makes you an awesome public speaker


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.

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  1. This video kicks ass.

    But is anybody else surprised by his being an Eagle Scout? First: I don’t know any gay parents that would let their son join the racist, sexist, homophobic Boy Scouts. Second: (Having been in the Scouts) I can’t imagine a WeBeLoS Troop that would be accepting of, or a fun time for, the son of gay parents.

  2. Haplito– I am a Cubmaster of my son’s Cub Scout pack. I agree that the official policies of the BSA are old-fashioned and prejudiced. However, the reality of single-parent families (near 50% of my scouts only have a mom active in their upbringing) and alternative families (some of my scouts are adopted, several are handicapped, but no openly gay parents yet) means that scouting and other groups have to adjust to the times a bit.

    I’m very tolerant, and teach my boys to be the same. I try to reform scouting through the scouts themselves. My friends from when I was a scout now run the local districts and summer camps, and they’re educated, open-minded people like myself. Perhaps we’ll be able to change some of those hateful policies. In the meantime, we’re making pinewood derby cars.

    I hope that you didn’t have a bad experience with scouting. My pack is sponsored by the PTA at my kids’ public school, so we adopt the same non-religious policy.

    I hate that it takes someone to stand up and say “look at me! I was raised by gays and still conform to your standards of ‘normal'” to show how foolish the haters are.

    P.S. Dan– no, I will not put the “S&M back into Scoutmaster”. Jerk.

  3. Thanks for the response, TimG. I had a pretty good experience, all told. All my Scoutmasters, and most of my fellow Scouts [notable exception: Aaron Jacobsen, who was a fucking dweeb.], were pretty solid people.

    My memories include: going camping, making this tin-foil-banana-chocolate-chip dessert in hot coals, and building catapults out of popsicle sticks. Also, I went to State, like twice(!), for the Pinewood Derby. I’m pretty sure that the annual bond formed between my stepdad and I over graphite lubricant and sleek design is what kept his marriage to my very unhappy mother seaworthy for so long.

    So, good on ya for teaching tolerance in an intolerant organization. It really is a pity that a group with such capacity for helping kids out is sullied by backward, outdated thinking and policies.

  4. Wow. All we need to do is make sure that every child of same-sex parents really IS giving away a kitten on the second date. That’s the best argument for legalizing same-sex marriage that I’ve ever heard.

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