Zach Wahls thanks you for coming out

Zach Wahls, a nationally-renowned LGBT rights activist, started his speech Wednesday night with a little humor.

“Thanks for coming out,” Wahls said, then apologizing for the “terrible pun.”

The 120 members and allies of the LGBT community in Lory Student Center Theatre may not have disagreed, but were nonetheless thrilled to have the YouTube sensation just feet away from them, speaking passionately about marriage equality.

The event was sponsored by CSU’s GLBT Resource Center and ASAP.

Wahls became famous after starring in a popular political video from 2011, in which he spoke before the Iowa House Judiciary when a bill to make gay marriage illegal was under review.

“I’ve seen [his] video on YouTube in public speaking and I thought it would be a great opportunity,” said Melissa Arcker, a sophomore communications and journalism double major.

Wahls’ speech focused on his upbringing, calling into to question the vitriol often surrounding the same-sex equality debate.

“The gender of your parents does not tell you what skills you’ll have,” Wahls said, talking about how he grew up as an Eagle Scout and was quarterback of his high school football team.

In this environment, Wahls was faced with discriminatory language every day

“No one was going to stand up for me –– I had to stand up for myself,” Wahls said.

The 21-year-old has been speaking for 20 months across the nation as an LGBTQ activist, but according to Wahls, the coolest thing that has happened to him was meeting Jon Stewart.

Wahls said he has been most grateful to have the opportunity to make up for a lot of things that he said or did not say in the past.

“It was really spur of the moment,” said Collyn Franka, a mechanical engineering major who attended the event. “But someday, maybe I’ll get married.”

Diversity Beat and Entertainment Reporter Bailey Constas (@BaileyLiza) can be reached at news@collegian.com.