Today, an attorney with whom I work told me I absolutely needed to drop what I was doing in order to listen to a 19-year old man giving a statement to the Iowa legislature. Under consideration was a constitutional amendment that would reverse the landmark case of Varnum v Brien. I looked up Zach Wahls on Youtube and watched his incredible speech.
My friend then told me that Zach also happened to be in town, at Left Bank Books, 5 blocks away from my law office. I walked over, arriving in time to hear Zach ending his prepared remarks, and opening the floor to questions. One of the main points he made is that people react badly to households of two gay parents because they have a “fear of the unknown.”
I told Zach that I entirely agreed with that point. I mentioned that I have had several homophobic acquaintances who dramatically changed their attitudes about gays, but only after they got to actually know gay people. That led to my question: Other than encouraging homophobic people get to know real life gay, is rational discussion at all effective in diminishing homophobia? Zach said no. This fact guided the types of points he made when he stood up before the Iowa Legislature. He was specifically attempting to help the legislators feel like they knew something about Zach’s family. Despite Zach’s eloquence that day, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed the constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage by a vote of 62-37.
At tonight’s talk, Zach was also asked about the reactions of his friends as he was a student. He said that from Kindergarten to 3rd grade, the kids who came to his house thought it was cool that he had two moms. Some of them wished that they had two moms. From 3rd grade to 6th grade, things soured. Kids were still surprised, but at all envious. Though Zach didn’t use the following words, I conclude from this that bigotry is largely socialized. Zach writes about growing up, and many issues of character instilled by his moms in his new book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family.
If the only way to get rid of homophobia is to introduce homophobes to real life gay people, what is the best approach to getting this done? Zach has started a new project, Out to Dinner.
Zach recently appeared on The Daily Show. Here’s what happened: