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Exclusive: Iowa teen talks marriage ban

Zach Wahls moved us  — and the rest of the Internet — with his eloquent speech to Iowa lawmakers. The college student stood up in defense of his lesbian parents and gay marriage, which is now being threatened in the Iowa House of Representatives.

“If it was your family that was being told it didn’t have the legal right to exist in your state, I think you would have done the same thing,” Wahls told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell in an exclusive interview. “Response has really just been absolutely overwhelming. It’s been so inspirational for me to hear from so many people. They’re supporting my family and the rights of gay couples and families.”

In his three-minute speech, Wahls described his loving and stable childhood as an Eagle scout and hardworker who scored in the top 99-percentile on the ACT. He said his parent’s sexual orientation had “zero effect on the content of his character.”

House Republicans in Iowa voted to create a ballot measure that, if approved, would not only ban same-sex marriage, but state recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships.

The right of same-sex couples to marry in Iowa has come under attack from the moment the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of legalizing it nearly two years ago. Iowa is one of only five states to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The 19-year-old Wahls says he has no plans to run for office in the future. He’s currently studying engineering at the University of Iowa.

His speech is making his moms very proud.

“It still brings tears to my eyes watching the talk, hearing all the praise, the commentary coming from friends and people around the globe,” said his mother, Terry Wahl. “It’s inspiring. It’s really very, very lovely.”