David and Marco Bulmer-Rizzi. Photo: Facebook David and Marco Bulmer-Rizzi were on their honeymoon. Photo: Facebook
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has reportedly apologised to the husband of a dead British man whose same-sex marriage is not recognised under Australian law.
Marco Bulmer-Rizzi had appealed to the UK and Australian governments to intervene after “outright discrimination” by Australian authorities which deemed his same-sex marriage null and void.
His husband David Bulmer-Rizzi, 32, died suddenly on Saturday after falling down stairs and cracking his skull at a friend’s home while the newlyweds honeymooned in Adelaide. Under South Australian law, Mr Bulmer-Rizzi has not had final say in any of the decisions around his husband’s death because his marriage is not recognised in the state. Instead, David Bulmer-Rizzi’s death certificate states “never married”.
Mr Bulmer-Rizzi told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that Mr Weatherill had phoned him directly and in the course of the 10-minute conversation, apologised for what happened, told him he would work on ways to change the legislation and eventually provide him with a new death certificate.
“I thank [Mr Wetherill]. I think it’s amazing. It’s so much further than I ever thought last night when I was wondering what I could do. My mind is blown away that the premier of South Australia called to apologise. It’s such an acknowledgment, coming from the top of the state.”
A spokesman for Premier Weatherill had previously confirmed to Fairfax Media that he planned to apologise to the distressed family.
“It is another example of how senseless discrimination of sexual orientation can cause pain and hurt,” Mr Weatherill said, echoing earlier SA Labor Party commitments towards eliminating discrimination in the statute.
“We introduced an initial Bill to the Parliament last year to begin the removal of discrimination from South Australian legislation. We will introduce a further raft of legislation to the Parliament this year that will grapple with the more complex issues such as this.”
He also indicated via social media that he will look into a possible retrospective amendment of David Bulmer-Rizzi’s death certificate should laws in the state change.
The couple, from Sunderland, married in London last June. While same-sex marriage is not legal in Australia, overseas same-sex marriages are recognised in some states, but not in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Mr Bulmer-Rizzi had earlier told BuzzFeed that in the eyes of the Australian government, “I’m nothing.”
David Bulmer-Rizzi’s father, Nigel Bulmer, flew to Adelaide after learning of the accident. As next-of-kin under South Australian law, he was forced to approve all decisions surrounding his son’s death, despite telling authorities they are his son-in-law’s choices to make.
“It’s degrading,” Mr Bulmer told BuzzFeed. “It demeans my son’s memory and denies their relationship. It’s cast them as second-class citizens. No one should ever have to go through what we’ve gone through. We’re at the bottom and somebody has dug a deeper pit.”
His son saved the lives of three people who received donor organs from the tourist before he died.
Recalling the moments after his husband’s untimely death, Mr Bulmer-Rizzi said: “When the funeral director came that’s when I was told that because Australia doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage, it [the death certificate] will say ‘never married’,”
“I asked at that point whether it was possible to say nothing [about his marital status], and I was told, ‘No, that’s not one of the drop down options on the computer.'”
He described the process as “outright discrimination”, adding that he may not have had any rights had he not got along well with his father-in-law.
He had appealed for help from the UK Prime Minister, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and three British MPs, urging them to step in to “defend what their law says.”
Mr Bulmer-Rizzi had also felt compelled to make his story public, posting a plea on his Facebook page.
“Please help me in getting David’s death certificate to show we were married,” he wrote, adding the hashtags #nevermarried and #timeforchange.
“If you are in Australia, please help me by writing to your MP, especially South Australia, to help bring change,” he said in another post.
A spokesman from the British High Commission in Canberra said the case was “very distressing”.
The Australian Greens are calling on the federal government to recognise same-sex marriages performed overseas.
“It’s appalling that a grieving husband is being treated this way. It really is degrading and humiliating and an example of the cruel nature of this element of Australian law,” said Greens Senator Robert Simms.
Fairfax Media has attempted to contact Mr Bulmer-Rizzi for comment.