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British Man: The Airport Took My Husband's Ashes

David and Marco Bulmer-Rizzi
David and Marco Bulmer-Rizzi

International laws do not always recognize same-sex marriages, resulting in ordeals like the one endured by Marco Bulmer-Rizzi.


The ashes of a British man were taken from his husband at a Chinese airport.

Marco Bulmer-Rizzi, whose husband, David, died in January due to injuries suffered in a fall during their Australian honeymoon, nearly lost his late partner again at the Hong Kong International airport.

After enduring the indignity of having David labeled as "never married" on his death certificate -- Australia does not recognize same-sex marriage, which forced David's father to approve his funeral arrrangements -- Bulmer-Rizzi was questioned January 22 by an airport guard, who observed the box full of ashes in a luggage scanner.

In an interview with BuzzFeed nearly three months after the incident, Bulmer-Rizzi said he revealed to the guard that they were the remains of his husband. She replied, "No. I'm gonna take this away."

Bulmer-Rizzi then had what he described as a "meltdown."

"I put my hand down [on the box] and said, 'No, you can't. I need to see your supervisor,'" he recalled. "I felt like I was losing him again."

"All I wanted was to be able to travel with David's ashes on me so he wouldn't have to travel back by himself," he said.

In preparation of his journey back home to the United Kingdom with the ashes, Bulmer-Rizzi had asked the U.K. Foreign Office for documentation that verified his legal right to the remains. The Foreign Office refused to provide it, leaving him exposed in situations such as these that demand next-of-kin paperwork.

Fortunately, the supervising official at the airport considered Bulmer-Rizzi's situation as well as his and David's passports, and allowed him travel back to the United Kingdom. In February, he scattered the ashes of his late partner in David's hometown of Sunderland.

However, Bulmer-Rizzi is still frustrated with his home country, which had "no clue" had to help him in his time of need. He hopes his story will inspire change to international laws and the recognition of married same-sex couples traveling abroad.

In fact, he's already made a change. After David died, the premier of the South Australia state contacted Bulmer-Rizzi with a promise to change the laws regarding same-sex marriages that took place abroad. Since the January incident, the marital status of his late partner has also been changed on a temporary death certificate.

In a statement to BuzzFeed, a spokesperson for the U.K. Foreign Office also said the office has "put in place a process" to address those that find themselves in similar straits:

"We have the greatest sympathy for Mr Bulmer-Rizzi and our staff in Australia and the UK worked hard to offer support and find a practical solution. Following this exceptional case, we put in place a process enabling us to issue a death registration quickly once an application is received."

Read the full article on the ordeal on BuzzFeed.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.