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Activist Zach Wahls Encourages People to Put Gender Aside at Rainbow Luncheon
Speaking to a record crowd at Bentley’s Rainbow Luncheon on October 23, keynote speaker Zach Wahls delivered a speech with the same heartfelt passion as his 2011 testimony in support of gay marriage before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee. During the event, which celebrates the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and questioning) community, Wahls tackled the question “What makes a family?” and included his own experience as the son of two lesbian mothers whose ability to marry was dependent on legislative decisions.
Wahls recalled how the video of that 2011 testimony — which received more than 20 million views on YouTube and landed Wahls on national platforms like the 2012 Democratic National Convention and The Ellen DeGeneres Show — gave him a voice and a responsibility. “I feel incredibly blessed to have had these opportunities to be part of a national conversation,” he said. “[Same sex marriage] is about what is undeniably one of this nation’s most important civil rights issues of our time, not just because of the immediate policy ramifications, but because of everything it represents: The humanizing face that it puts on the LGBTQ community.”
As a public spokesperson, Wahls has fielded a range of questions, including those about the efficacy of same sex parents. “When it comes to raising kids, I really don’t think what matters most is gender or sexual orientation or the number of parents,” he explained. “What matters most as kids is whether you have parents who are willing to put in the blood, sweat, toil and tears that it takes … and if parents have that love, the kids will be O.K.”
Wahls also tackled the argument that gay marriage is fundamentally un-American. “The entire idea of this country was that you could have different people from different countries and faiths come together … to form this nation in which we were united not by our identity but by our values: a commitment to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness … that’s why this is an American issue …”
During the luncheon, the 2013 Rainbow Awards were presented to Associate Professor of Global Studies Kristin Sorensen and Teresita (Tammie) Vicente ‘14, co-president of Bentley’s PRIDE (People Respecting Individuality and Diversity through Education) student organization.
The winners were noted for:
- Showing courage of conviction by taking a public stand in support of the LGBTQ population
- Contributing in ways large and small to the humanizing of the Bentley campus in terms of respect and appreciation for inclusion
- Showing a commitment to making Bentley more hospitable to LGBTQ people and a commitment to maintaining the ongoing effort for understanding and acceptance
Pictured above (left to right): Rainbow Award winner Teresita (Tammie) Vicente ‘14, keynote speaker Zach Wahls, and Ron Ardizzone, director of Student Systems and PRIDE Adviser at Bentley.
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.