LIFE-CHANGING: Susan Cullinane was part of the successful referendum campaign in Ireland.
LIFE-CHANGING: Susan Cullinane was part of the successful referendum campaign in Ireland. Allan Reinikka Rokaequalit

Ireland's referendum was about 'more than marriage'

AFTER months of campaigning, Susan Cullinane couldn't bear to wait around for the results of Ireland's referendum on marriage equality; so she decided to go for a hike.

It was there, at the top of a mountain in Ireland, that Susan and her partner learned the vote had passed with a 62% majority.

Susan was in Rockhampton yesterday visiting family, where she spoke to The Morning Bulletin about that life-changing, and history-making moment.

"I felt quite negative on the day of the polling. I was in tears just driving to the polls... the next day I thought, I can't sit here and listen.

"We were on top of the mountain when we got the message to say it's gone through," she said.

"It was one of the most emotionally exhausting things I have ever done.

"I think if you are straight, the debates on TV and the radio are an abstract thing; for a LGBTI person it's your life up for public scrutiny and that's hard to listen to every day."

Susan had spent two months door-knocking throughout her community during the campaign.

She said it had taken its toll asking strangers for permission to marry her partner.

"That was challenging and difficult emotionally.

"You have gone through the whole process of coming out to yourself, family and friends; and then having to go to the doors of strangers asking them and explaining to them why it's important to have that right," she said.

"It was really tough having to ask strangers to vote to give you the right to get married."

Unlike Australia, Ireland had cross-party support for marriage equality and civil partnerships had been introduced in 2010.

Susan hopes that Ireland's result will influence change here in Australia.

"It made quite a difference to have the state recognise your relationship. It's like the whole country has accepted you... for forever LGBTI people have been second-class citizens and now to have the whole country get behind you and give you that sense of acceptance is a fantastic feeling.

"Hopefully that has caused some momentum for the States, for Australia and even places where things are much, much worse for LGBTI people."


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