A Derry woman who caused a storm on Facebook by saying she had married a female friend says she’s been left shocked and angered by some of the responses. Hundreds of people in the city got involved in lively and heated debate over Jacqueline Williamson’s online experiment, ahead of the Stormont debate on marriage equality which takes place today.
Jacqueline is known to most people as the founder of the Kinship Care charity on Carlisle Road and, more recently, she was awarded the Woman of the Year award at a ceremony in the City Hotel.
Last week however, the popular mother of one made an announcement on Facebook as part of what she’s described as “a social experiment.”
Jacqueline, who is not in a gay relationship, decided along with her friend Orla McSwine, to gauge reaction to gay marriage by temporarily changing her relationship status on Facebook proclaiming that she and Ms. McSwine had become married.
“To be honest, it all came from a conversation we’d had as a group, and I was pretty convinced that society had changed to a point where people might not care. But that was far from the truth,” Jacqueline told the Journal.
“As I watched what was happening on Facebook, I couldn’t believe it.
“Instantly, between us both we had 17 people who ‘defriended us’ and we had private messages full of hatred.
“The language used really took me by surprise. In some messages we were told that we should ‘burn in hell’ for what we’d done. Other people said we were ruining the lives of children. I was genuinely taken aback at the hard line taken by some people.”
The local woman said the experiment had also attracted a lot of positive reaction but that the exercise had shown that some deep rooted hatred still exists towards same sex couples here.
“I think it was a real education and we saw some very interesting outcomes. It taught me that there are people out there who actually have to deal with this kind of hatred every day of their lives. For us, it wasn’t a real situation but I couldn’t help but think of the impact that kind of abuse would have if it had been real.
“I think regardless of an individual’s beliefs or values, there should be a sense of ‘live and let live.’ It really surprised me that I was surrounded by that kind of hatred and resentment online. I don’t meet the people who expressed those views on a day to day basis thankfully. I can imagine that those views, when expressed, would add to the isolation that many people feel themselves in.”