South Australian premier Jay Weatherill gives personal guarantee that David Bulmer-Rizzis death certificate will be reissued with correct status and vows to amend legislation to recognise overseas same-sex marriages
The British high commission has said an English man who died while on honeymoon in Adelaide will be registered as married on his death certificate, after the South Australian premier apologised for the awfully insensitive treatment of his widower.
Charity worker David Bulmer-Rizzi, 32, died after a fall while on honeymoon with husband Marco, 38, in Adelaide. Though the couple, from Sunderland, had married in London last year, Marco Bulmer-Rizzi was told Davids death certificate would state never married and he was not recognised as next of kin.
The states premier, Jay Weatherill, gave Bulmer-Rizzi his personal guarantee that his husbands death certificate would be reissued with his correct marital status, and that legislation would be passed to recognise overseas same-sex marriages in South Australia.
I was obviously very ashamed that hed had this experience in South Australia, my home state, Weatherill told Guardian Australia.
Weatherill said the births, deaths and marriages department of South Australias Department of Consumer and Business Services had felt constrained by state law to identify David Bulmer-Rizzi as unmarried.
At a time when [Marcos] grappling with the loss of someone he loved, when they were in Australia celebrating their honeymoon that was obviously awfully insensitive.
Weatherill said it was fortunate Marco had a positive relationship with his father-in-law, Nigel Bulmer, who was tasked with being Davids next of kin.
That didnt prove to be a difficulty, but it could have been. It just amounted to another layer of disrespect at a time when he should have been treated with sensitivity.
David had also donated his organs. And here we are, treating him with disrespect at a time when hes acting with almost the ultimate respect for the people of South Australia.
All of that was obviously very distressing to [Marco] and deeply shaming for us.
Menna Rawlings, the British high commissioner to Australia, thanked Weatherill for committing to amending the legislation, and said Marco would be recognised as David Bulmer-Rizzis next of kin and husband.
A spokesman for the high commission in Canberra said staff in Australia and the UK had the greatest sympathy for Bulmer-Rizzi and had been working to find a practical solution.
In this exceptional case, we have now put in place a process to issue a death registration quickly once an application is received, the spokesman said.
He said he was not aware of any similar cases. A consular death registration is not a UK death certificate, but will register the Bulmer-Rizzis status as a married couple in the UK public record.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said he understood that Weatherills commitment had restored some of [Marco Bulmer-Rizzis] faith in Australia.
Marco had thought of Australia as a tolerant and inclusive place … [that] was restored a bit by Weatherills actions and the great support that hes got from lots of ordinary people in Adelaide, Croome said.
He understands that ordinary people are in support of this, its the government thats out of step.
There is no provision for same-sex marriage in Australia South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory do not recognise overseas same-sex marriages.
Weatherill said more legislation to amend state laws that discriminated on the grounds of sexuality would be introduced to the parliament this year.
The federal government frontbencher Christopher Pyne, a South Australian MP, told ABC radio on Thursday that not recognising overseas same-sex marriages was outdated and anachronistic as well as offensive to Bulmer-Rizzi.
Weatherill said Pynes support could indicate an emerging consensus around changing the law at a federal level.
But both Weatherill and Croome said as long as there was no same-sex marriage in Australia, tinkering with existing laws could only ever be an interim measure.
The federal Coalition government has proposed a plebiscite on same-sex marriage after the next federal election, due to be held this year, but has not specified how the result will influence any legislation.
The proposed plebiscite was an awkward compromise brokered by Tony Abbott in the dying days of his leadership, said Weatherill. He said he was in favour of marriage equality and would be agitating for more clarity on the issue at a federal level.
If the federal government didnt want to move on marriage equality, it could essentially permit states to do it.
The superior solution would be that they would simply legislate for it … [but that] would require a change of government, or a change of attitude in the current one.
Croome said the federal governments reluctance to move on marriage equality was despite consistent polling in support of it.
I think its fair to say that seven out of 10 Australians support marriage equality, and thats not only quite high for any social reform, its higher than in any other country with marriage equality, he said.
So the people arent the problem. Its the politicians.