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What Makes a Family?

Zach Wahls tried to answer that very question when he testified before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in January, 2011.

The son of two lesbian mothers, the 19-year-old University of Iowa engineering student had no idea that his heartfelt testimony that day would spread like viral wildfire, and even land him on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. A state champion in high school debate and multiple national finalist in competitive acting, Zach was no stranger to speaking before an audience. Yet, he had never talked about his family in a public setting or in such open and candid terms.

On his way home from the public hearing, he thought that his work was, for all practical purposes, finished. Just two days after he testified during that hearing, however, a YouTube video of his testimony went viral, garnering nearly two million views with millions more via Facebook, Twitter, national and international television, and other online media. Although initially hesitant to share his story on such a vast stage, Zach remembered the famed words of his favorite superhero's uncle, Ben Parker: "With great power comes great responsibility." Never before in his life had he had such an opportunity to stand up and speak out on behalf of his family. So he did what any of us would do, deciding to advocate for family and families like his all over the country.

After appearing on numerous television programs in person and his testimony airing on MSNBC, ABC, CBS and CNN, Zach found himself working on a book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family (2012). Zach shares a story that has never before been told, and offers a fresh, bold perspective on a recently rekindled - and always contentious - issue: gay marriage.

Zach WahlsÂ’ visit to campus is jointly sponsored by the Athenaeum and the Berger Institute for Work, Family, and Children.