Wahls finally welcomed

ZW-front

Zach Wahls

By Amy Brooks
News Editor

After a year and a half, two cancellations, and a five-minute introduction by senior Mariel Klein, Zach Wahls finally walked onto the stage of Montante Cultural Center. The crowd became silent in anticipation, as the speaker and gay-rights activist began to speak.

As per his agreement with Canisius, Wahls started his talk by reading an excerpt from “The United States Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops Teaching on Marriage” on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

“Marriage is a unique relationship between two specific persons, one man and one woman,” Wahls read. In the crowd, fists clenched and heads shook. “Placing a child in the care of two men or two women may be well-intentioned, but ultimately deprives the child of that which best serves his or her interests – a mother and a father.” He ended the reading, and looked out into the audience and said, “I respectfully disagree.”

Immediately, Montante was filled with applause.

This is not Wahls’ usual opening when he gives his talk, but it was part of the agreement struck with the school as a condition of his appearance. He was originally denied as a club-sponsored speaker, but Klein wouldn’t take no for an answer. After meeting with Dean of Students Dr. Terri Magione, Klein asked if there were any other routes she could take to get Wahls to Canisius.

“She said ‘get academic support’ since he could speak about whatever he wanted as long as it was in an academic setting and not a social setting,” Klein said.

After sending out emails to professors and department heads that she hoped would support the cause, the Philosophy, Religious Studies, Art History, Political Science Departments, as well as the Ethics, Justice, and Peace and Justice Minors responded that they would co-sponsor the event.

“After sending all of that to Dr. Mangione, she asked if he would switch his talk around, asked him to open up by reading the excerpts from ‘The United States Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops Teaching on Marriage’, and then say that he respectfully disagreed,” Klein said.

Wahls agreed to this and Klein was officially notified that he could come on Thursday, April 11. The money to bring him to Canisius was approved by Senate during an emergency meeting on Friday, and he arrived for his talk on the following Tuesday.

“Because this was months in the making, Brian Almendinger knew about it and knew that it went through, I would be coming to him and asking for money relatively quickly. I don’t think anyone realized that it would be as quickly as we ended up needing it,” Klein said.

When Wahls was finally able to speak his message was simple, and not as controversial as most thought it would be.

“My goal is never ever to change someone’s religious beliefs,” Wahls said in an interview before his talk.

Though he talked about growing up as the child of lesbian parents, and defending his moms in front of the Iowa Senate, there was one phrase that kept coming up: treat others the way you want to be treated. This “Golden Rule” is taught in almost all religions, and even most secular philosophers and ethicists can find nothing wrong with the moral.

“This is, at its core, what every other civil rights’ movement has been about,” Wahls asserted.

His point got across to the members of the audience including Fr. Michael Tunney, S.J., who commented during the question and answer session, “The strength of your faith and the wisdom of your presentation will add to the dialogue here at Canisius long after your departure.”

Looking back, it is interesting to think that so much ink has been spilled over something that could be summed up in nine, noncontroversial words: treat others the way you want to be treated.

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