Young members of the LGBTQI community talk about the legalisation of same-sex marriage

EQUALITY: Cole Wykes, 19, of Kelso, Cordelia Attenborough, 19, of Westbury, and Claire Johnston, 26, of Launceston. Picture: Paul Scambler
EQUALITY: Cole Wykes, 19, of Kelso, Cordelia Attenborough, 19, of Westbury, and Claire Johnston, 26, of Launceston. Picture: Paul Scambler

There was barely an empty seat in the public gallery of the House of Representatives in Canberra on Thursday when politicians took the final vote on same-sex marriage.

Even more keen observers spent the day on the lawns of Parliament House, but people right across the country watched and waited in anticipation.

It wasn’t until the evening that the final decision was made, and three young members of Northern Tasmania’s LGBTQI community said they would remember the historic moment for the rest of their lives.

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Kelso’s Cole Wykes, 19, said he was prepared for it to be a “no”.

“I honestly expected a ‘no’ vote. I was expecting it to be this really anticlimactic thing where they were like, ‘soz, disagreeing with the entire country again’,” he said.

“I thought, I’m going to get ready for a letdown. So it didn’t really hit me until [Friday] that I can get married.”

Working It Out community development networker Claire Johnston was driving back from Burnie to Launceston when the final decision came through.

“It was a really important moment to witness,” she said.

But 19-year-old Cordelia Attenborough said there were still scars left over from the postal vote campaigns.

The Westbury woman said the lead-up to the decision was “a really unfortunate process”.

“It just gave this fantastic platform and vehicle for people to spout negativity and hatred, and, although all voices should be heard and freedom of speech is something we value immensely in this country, there’s a line between freedom of speech and hate speech and inciting violent behaviour,” she said.

“I think that line was often crossed. It was unfortunate to watch that line being crossed and feeling as if, no matter what steps we took, there was nothing we could do about it because you never want to fight fire with fire and you never want to be mislabelled.”

Ms Attenborough said it was an emotional process to go through for a lot of people.

“There’s nothing like trying to go to work or trying to go to school and being stopped, or seeing people campaign, on highways or on signposts, negatively about your ability to love somebody that you love.

“That was unfortunate. However, it also gave a good voice and a good vehicle for a lot of positivity, and that was beautiful to see - seeing people come out of the woodwork who weren’t necessarily LGBT, but people who were allies or supporters.

“For me it’s not necessarily about marriage, but about my human rights. It was just about getting a human right that was previously denied to me and people within our community.”