PRIDE SUNDAY: Legislator raised by two mothers turns out to be a fantastic leader

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a five-part series of blog posts, published every Sunday during the month of June, commemorating Pride Month in 2019.


Although Iowa State Senator Zach Wahls (D-Coralville) is a straight cisgender man, he is very much a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Wahls, then a student at the University of Iowa, gave this speech before the Iowa House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in 2011, both in opposition to a proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution that would have prohibited same-sex couples from being able to marry and in defense of his family:

Wahls’s speech, which quickly went viral after it was posted on YouTube, was, in and of itself, a major turning point in the movement for LGBTQIA+ equality. Wahls’s speech helped portray same-sex parents, like his two mothers, as leading families that are, aside from the parents being of the same biological sex, just like opposite-sex parents and raising children who become positive role models in society. The proposed state constitutional amendment that Wahls opposed was never ratified; in fact, it was never placed on the ballot in Iowa.

In a 2012 interview that was published by the pro-LGBTQIA+ Washington Blade, Wahls said this to interviewer Phil Reese about how he considers himself to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community:

To be clear, I don’t consider myself an ally. I might be straight cisgender man, but in my mind, I am a member of the LGBT community.

I know the last thing that anyone wants is to add another letter to the acronym, but we need to make sure as a movement we’re making a place for what we call “queer-spawn” to function and to be part of the community.

Because even though I’m not gay, I do know what its like to be hated for who I am. And I do know what its like to be in the closet, and like every other member of the LGBT community, I did not have a choice in this. I was born into this movement. I want to be explicitly clear first of all.

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In 2018, Wahls ran for, and won, a seat in the Iowa Senate. Wahls represents Iowa Senate District 37, which includes part of Johnson County, all of Cedar County, and the portion of the City of Wilton that is in Muscatine County in the upper house of Iowa’s state legislature. Wahls wrote this piece on Medium about 14 lessons that he learned in his first session as a state legislator, and it’s fantastic advice for those who aspire to become elected officials themselves and provides an insider’s view on how the Iowa Legislature operates.

Zach Wahls has made his mothers proud.