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She left the country to marry the love of her life

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

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, that was the worst thing, 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.

"I feel like I lost my teenage years and growing up with no equality was detrimental to me.

"As soon as we all graduated and moved away for jobs or uni all these people came out, and I thought to myself, 'where were you two years ago when it mattered?'”

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.

"I have really strong feelings about the marriage equality vote because of what it will mean for the community and although it angers me that it isn't binding I am still asking people to vote yes.

"The vote hurts me because if you promise something and don't do it, that's just how politics is and I can deal with that, but to me this appears half-assed; and it's wrong because you are playing with a fundamental human right.

"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.”

"You ask someone to 'marry you' because that is the social norm and it's not a phrase you have to explain to young children, unlike 'civil union'.”

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

"I have made myself familiar with biblical teachings,” she said.

"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.

"A fundamental part of the Bible is that by following the religion you become a better person and I wish people would remember that.

"The marriage vote is an important conversation to have, even if it's an uncomfortable one.

"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, just like everybody else and I want to ensure that other teenagers in Bowen who are LGBTI are protected.”

Topics:  bisexual bowen canada marriage equality plebiscite proserpine whitsundays

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