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‘Twenty two years ago we were criminals, today we are leaders in the world’

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Marina Tuffy and Cynthia Silva are pictured in the referendum count centre in the TF, in Castlebar on Saturday.
EQUAL
?Marina Tuffy and Cynthia Silva are pictured in the referendum count centre in the TF, in Castlebar on Saturday. ?Pic: Neill O’Neill

‘Twenty-two years ago we were criminals, today we are leaders in the world’


Interview
Neill O'Neill

AMONG the jubilation shortly after lunch time at the count centre in the TF last Saturday, one couple embraced tenderly. Life has been a turbulent journey for Marina Tuffy at times, particularly when she lost her husband 15 years ago.
The Aughagower native found love again however, when she met US-born Cynthia Silva while both were at the same church choir in Belcarra 14 years ago. Last September, on Marina’s fiftieth birthday, they were married in Cleveland.
“We wanted to get married in Ireland but we weren’t allowed. I was married before, I know what it is like to be treated as an equal, and by being gay we were not treated as equals in Ireland. We were being treated as second class citizens and the day I got married I wanted to be treated as equal and that is why we went to America,” Marina explained to The Mayo News.
“When we came back here our marriage wasn’t recognised, it still is not, but this vote means that it now will be, it will be legally recognised.”
Cynthia got Irish citizenship last year - on Independence Day, July 4. Marina said that having to go to the USA to become equal citizens in marriage will not be something that other couples now have to consider.
“This outcome is extraordinary, it means to us that our marriage is recognised, and it is beginning to sink in, it means to the people who live around here that it is okay to be gay that they no longer have to hide or fear how they will be received, that is the important part of today.
“I was really moved by Ursula Halligan’s piece a few weeks ago when she said that people have brought this secret to the grave, we could have brought this to the grave, but we didn’t, look where we are today. I live for the day when somebody discovers they are gay and it will be a celebration rather than ‘how am I going to deal with this’.

Same love
Marina said that as she was married previously to a man, she understands what marriage equality is.
“I know that our love is not one bit different than that which I had for my husband. He died 15 years ago and I have been lucky enough to have a second chance and today I got dressed in the clothes I wore when I got married, as I knew the Yes vote was going to carry and I wanted to celebrate it in my country. Even if it didn’t carry, it was going to be historic as people came out to support us and vote. They were beeping their horns yesterday on Market Square in Castlebar, supporting us and even if it was not passed, people were not going to go back in and just forget that this ever happened.”
When asked about Ireland pioneering approach to the same sex marriage vote, both ladies said they are very proud.
The Irish are known as leaders around the world, and today they have shown that,” Cynthia said, with Marina adding: “As an Irish person, I am extremely proud. Twenty-two years ago we were criminals, today we are leaders in the world.
“I want to remember the work that David Norris, Anne Louise Gilligan and Catherine Zapone did, because they inspired us and laid the foundation for today, we are following in the footsteps of others.

Message of hope
Marina had one parting message for those coming to terms or struggling with their sexuality.
“Never, never give up, always stay true to who you are, because you are a gift, the same gift as every child are the day they are born, and your family know that it is okay to have a gay child in their family, they know that this day changed history and we are all part of it.”