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| Friday, June 28, 2013

Zach Wahls has two moms. This fact could be considered the most mundane aspect of Wahls’ background depending on one's politics. But it’s this fact about Wahls' and the defense of his family before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in 2011 that garnered him national attention when video of his testimony went viral online. Wahls accepted an invitation from The Friends School of Atlanta in Decatur, a suburb 15 miles west of downtown Atlanta on Thursday to speak in support of his new memoir, “My Two Moms.”

Sponsored by Charis Books, a local LGBT bookstore located in Atlanta’s Little Five Points district, Wahls spoke for over an hour to a room filled with supporters and LGBT families.

An Eagle Scout, Wahls is currently executive director of Scouts for Equality, a national organization working towards creating a more inclusive environment for gay scouts and leaders within the Boy Scouts of America. The first chapter in “My Two Moms” titled “Be Prepared,” derives from the values Wahls learned as a scout and provides the structure for “My Two Moms.”

“My entire life had been lived to prepare for the day’s event,” said Wahls, referring to his testimony before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in 2011 as the House debated whether to pass a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in his home state. Iowa became the first state in the Midwest to grant equal marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples legislatively in 2009.

Wahls told the crowd he’d “developed thick skin and quick reflexes as the son of lesbian parents and was ready to defend his moms.” But what Wahls wasn’t prepared for was the overwhelming reaction to the video of his testimony, which he says he was unaware even existed until the following day after he was informed by a co-worker.

“Do you realize you’re all over Facebook?”

Brushing it off, Wahls returned to his cubicle and continued his day. It wasn’t until he returned home and awoke from a nap that he realized he had 600 e-mails, dozens of voicemails, and more Facebook friend requests than he could possibly accept in a day. This was the moment he knew his life was about to change.

“It was the most stressful snow day ever,” Wahls said jokingly.

18 million You Tube hits later and appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, MSNBC and CNN, Wahls has become one of America’s most recognizable faces associated with the fight for equal rights for LGBT Americans.

A fight that was bolstered by the Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday that ruled Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented the federal government from recognizing legally married gay couples like Wahls’ two moms unconstitutional. Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 prohibiting access to marriage for gay and lesbian couples. When asked about how the ruling would change his activism going forward Wahls said, “ Like many activists folks I know, we’re excited but not satisfied.”

And in his best impression of actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Wahls reiterated, “We’ll be back.” While Wahls was the main attraction of the evening, he shared the spotlight for a brief moment when he acknowledged a 7-year-old boy during the question and answer session that simply wanted to let him know that they had something in common. “I have two mommies too,” he said.

In a full circle moment, the last few lines of Wahls’ now famous speech before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee were given new life. “I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot of testimony about how damaging having gay parents is on kids. But not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple. And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero impact on the content of my character.”