Video of Zach Wahls, a college student at the University of Iowa, testifying in favor of gay marriage has achieved its second wave of viral sharing: Zach is an articulate, intelligent young man who delivered a compelling speech in front of a hostile legislature back in February – and he also has two moms.
Along with an Australian ad promoting marriage equality, Zach’s video has rapidly become a hot topic of conversation among gay marriage advocates, perhaps now even more so than when it was released 10 months ago.
Zach’s testimony is certainly emotional and resonates powerfully with those, like me, who are in favor of gay marriage and support equal rights for gay parents. I already know that a parent’s sexual orientation does not affect his or her ability to raise a child successfully. This knowledge and my deep commitment to marriage equality caused me to hit the “share” button and express my support for the cause.
Unfortunately, Zach’s speech fell on deaf ears and did not persuade the legislature to keep gay marriage legal – in today’s persistently partisan climate, this is unsurprising. Likewise, the social media frenzy around Zach’s video appears to consist mostly of like-minded gay rights supporters and liberal groups such as MoveOn.org sharing the video out of solidarity.
What the marriage equality movement needs desperately is a method for convincing defenders of so-called “traditional marriage” that it is time to legalize same-sex marriage and end centuries of bigotry. Viral videos such as Zach’s testimony and the Australian ad do little to serve this purpose, as good as they make gay rights advocates feel about the movement’s progress.
People’s fear of gay marriage is, to be honest, very much a mystery to me, but those who are against it have their heels dug in pretty deep. Just this week a judge in New York allowed a lawsuit to go forward that would overturn the legislature’s legalization of gay marriage this past summer. Gay marriage opponents have an endless arsenal of tactics for blocking same-sex unions, and a steady stream of funding to do so until the Supreme Court steps in as it did in the 1970s during the fight to legalize inter-racial marriage.
The number of shares on a video, while impressive, does not necessarily indicate progress. The day when Zach’s testimony convinces a conservative legislator to vote “yes” on gay marriage is the day the movement will be able to celebrate a real victory.
Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons