David and Marco Bulmer-Rizzi were British newlyweds on their honeymoon to Australia last month when tragedy struck. The young couple were staying at a friend's home in Adelaide, South Australia, when David fell down a staircase and died two days later, according to a report from Buzzfeed.
But compounding the tragedy are legal circumstances that invalidated the Bulmer-Rizzi's marriage, as if it never happened.
Reports of Marco Bulmer-Rizzi's heartache prompted South Australian premier Jay Weatherill to announce today that he will introduce legislation to recognize overseas same-sex marriages. He apologized to the family for the hurt the current law has caused them.
While same-sex marriage is legal in England, it isn't in Australia. The state of South Australia also refuses to recognize marriages performed overseas and listed David as "never married" on his death certificate despite repeated objections from his husband and parents.
Other Australian states do recognize foreign marriages; if the accident had happened in the neighboring state of New South Wales, David would have been identified properly as married. British consulate employees have been less than helpful so far in solving the insult.
"As you are aware, legislation differs from state to state and South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territories do not recognise overseas same-sex marriage and as such when registering death the local authority cannot state the deceased as married," a consulate official told Marco via email. "I am sorry that this is the case."
"I understand they can't change Australian law," Marco told Buzzfeed, "but I'm not asking them to. I'm asking my own country to stand by its own laws. If the British government is aware that other countries do not recognise same-sex marriage they should try to defend what their law says."
"Normally, if you die abroad you can register the death at the British consulate and get a UK-style death certificate; however, Australia is expressly excluded," he continued. "They should give me an accompanying document that says under the British law I am the next of kin."
Marco has been supported by David's parents, who flew to Australia immediately following the accident. Every decision Marco made about his husband's funeral arrangements had to be approved by David's father.
"I was completely overlooked. I wasn't the next of kin. Every single question I was asked - whether or not I wanted David cremated, whether or not I wanted David to have a service, or be washed, even the cost of the coffin they were to use - after I gave my answer, David's father was consulted. He was also specifically asked, 'Do you want to look this over before it's signed?' It was outright discrimination. If I didn't get on with my in-laws I don't know that I would have any rights," Marco said. "The first thing David's father said to them was, 'Marco is David's husband. He is the one [to make these decisions].' He said they shouldn't talk to him, but they kept doing it."
"I didn't think I could be hurt any deeper than I have been," Nigel Bulmer said.
"I flew out here to support my son-in-law. I'm a 60-year-old man, I've been in the fire brigade for many years, I thought I was shockproof. But I was horrified and deeply hurt by the words I heard there: that they're going to put on the death certificate 'never married'. It's not acceptable. It's also not true. I was there. The legislature needs sorting out. This should be brought into public awareness."