Gay rights advocate Zach Wahls speaks at Wartburg College - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Gay rights advocate Zach Wahls speaks at Wartburg College

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WAVERLY (KWWL) -

More than one year ago, a 19-year-old University of Iowa student made a speech that would change his life.

Zach Wahls was the fourth person to address the Iowa House of Representatives on February 1st, 2011 in defense of his two mothers' right to marry. His video has now been seen by more than 16 million viewers on YouTube.

"Good evening, Mr. Chairman. My name is Zach Wahls. I'm a sixth-generation Iowan and an engineering student at the University of Iowa, and I was raised by two women," his now-famous speech began.

Whether he realized it or not, Wahls became one of the most recognizable gay rights advocates in the country the day he stepped up to that podium. His goal is to show people the human side of the debate over same-sex marriage.

Wednesday night, he brought his bringing his pro-family message to Wartburg students, many of whom said they are proud to host such an inspiring speaker.

Wahls said, he was just speaking on behalf of his two moms, and hoping lawmakers would listen. The day after his speech, it seemed his mission had failed, three democrats joined with republicans to vote in favor of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

But the amendment almost immediately died in the Senate. Now, he's an author and a national spokesperson for same-sex marriage, and his courage is inspiring students at Wartburg to speak up in support of equal rights.

"He's from a small town Iowa and he's standing up for what is right in the world," said Haley Hanson, a senior at Wartburg College.

Wahls' speech is close to the hearts of Cassie and Allison Hales, who became legally married in Iowa in 2010.

"For the two of us, it's important because he has lesbian moms and someday we hope to be lesbian moms as well. So it really relates to us to know that our future child can grow up to be just as good as he is," said Cassie Hales.

That's exactly why Wahls is continuing to speak -- long after his three minutes are over.

Wahls' speech is part of Wartburg Alliance's "Gayla Week". It's a time aimed at increasing support and awareness for the LGBT community. "Gayla Week" ends Saturday, with the annual Wartburg Drag Show. Last year, more than 700 people attended that event.

We also reached out to The Family Leader, a group working in support of a marriage amendment to Iowa's constitution.

The Family Leader Vice President Chuck Hurley says it's disturbing that Christian-based Wartburg College would promote a week dedicated to gay rights -- without allowing for equal debate from those who support "traditional marriage."

"Any community, whether it's a formerly orthodox Christian church or not, any community that embraces behavior that is ultimately personally harmful and societally harmful is doing a disservice to our civilization," he said Thursday.

The Family Leader is hopeful that Iowans will still get a chance to vote on an amendment to the state's constitution. Senate leaders say, they will not take up the issue this session.

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