She left the coun­try to marry the love of her life

Whitsunday Times - - LIFE - Jes­sica Lamb Jes­sica.Lamb @whit­sun­day­times.com.au

SA­MAN­THA Richard­son was born and raised in Bowen. She is a suc­cess­ful ac­coun­tant, busi­ness owner and pub­lished au­thor.

But Sa­man­tha left her home coun­try for Canada five years ago be­cause she could not marry the woman she loved.

Hence the re­cent same-sex mar­riage postal plebiscite is a cause close to her heart.

Sa­man­tha was 22 years old when she told her fam­ily and friends she was bi­sex­ual.

“I moved to Canada to marry my ex-girl­friend be­cause we couldn’t legally get mar­ried in Aus­tralia and when we broke up. A lot of peo­ple asked me why I did not move home,” Ms Richard­son said.

“I guess it was be­cause I was very dis­il­lu­sioned with the at­ti­tude to­wards the LGBTI com­mu­nity in Aus­tralia.

“I have fam­ily in Bowen and Proser­pine and as much as I love them there were a lot of is­sues when I came out.”

Sa­man­tha said the de­nial of her true feel­ings in her for­ma­tive years was fur­ther ex­ac­er­bated by the lack of bi­sex­ual role mod­els in Bowen grow­ing up.

“I was scared, I knew it was ‘un­ac­cept­able’ be­cause I saw how the ‘gay queens’ were treated at my school in Bowen,” she said.

“I saw the bul­ly­ing, par­tic­u­larly from par­ents, the kids were okay but the older gen­er­a­tion could be hor­rific.

“Peo­ple in po­si­tions of power could make life mis­er­able and they knew they were wield­ing taboos as a weapon.

“As soon as we all grad­u­ated and moved away for jobs or uni all these peo­ple came out.”

Five years ago when the Gil­lard Govern­ment bill for mar­riage equal­ity was voted down, Sa­man­tha was on the front line protest­ing.

“It changed my en­tire life path be­cause for me to cre­ate the life I wanted with the per­son I loved I couldn’t stay in my home coun­try.”

Canada has had mar­riage equal­ity for 12 years.

“Ten years later, in Canada’s coun­try towns just like Bowen, peo­ple are hav­ing pride pic­nics be­cause they have had time to ad­just and be open-minded, it all starts with equal­i­sa­tion un­der the law.”

When Sa­man­tha asked her fam­ily to vote ‘yes’, she was met with de­bate.

“I have heard most of the rea­sons peo­ple have to vote no,” she said.

“When peo­ple talk about free­dom of speech and voic­ing their opin­ion I would say that when you feel the need to tell me I don’t not have the right to ex­ist ex­actly like you do, that is hate speech.

“When peo­ple say their prob­lem is with the word mar­riage, I would say the term civil part­ner­ship is not the same thing be­cause you are very de­lib­er­ately choos­ing to iso­late a group of the pop­u­la­tion with that phrase.

“You are set­ting a prece­dent in the so­cial hi­er­ar­chy that mar­riage is at the top, dubbed ac­cept­able, and then un­der­neath that is civil union.”

Sa­man­tha went to Catholic school, has stud­ied Hin­duism and was part of a Chris­tian club in univer­sity.

“When peo­ple point out the bib­li­cal ar­gu­ment I would counter that be­ing in Canada I am blessed with mul­ti­ple re­li­gions who have em­braced mar­riage equal­ity,” she said.

“The ba­sis of Chris­tian teach­ings, first and fore­most, is love, lov­ing thy neigh­bour and treat­ing oth­ers how you want to be treated.

“It is not about spread­ing dis­sent and judg­ing oth­ers and be­ing selec­tive in your in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the Bi­ble.

“I want peo­ple to put them­selves in my shoes and if not be­ing able to marry the per­son you love makes you feel bad, then vote yes.

“Part of be­ing Australian is hav­ing a fair go. All I want is a fair go in life to be with the per­son I love, and I want to en­sure that other teenagers in Bowen who are LGBTI are pro­tected.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

AD­VO­CATE: Mar­riage equal­ity cam­paigner Sa­man­tha Richard­son sheds light on grow­ing up LGBTI in Bowen.

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