BIRTHS, DEATHS AND MARRIAGES REGISTRATION (RECOGNITION OF SAME SEX MARITAL STATUS) AMENDMENT BILL

 The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:03):  Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996. Read a first time.

Second Reading  The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:04):  I move:

  That this bill be now read a second time.

I start with some fine words to introduce this bill:

 What happened to Marco and David is a classic example of the reason why we need marriage equality in this country. It's not just about the legal issues like certificates, it's about how people treat each other.

Those are the words of our Premier Jay Weatherill posted online on 22 January this year. He goes on to say:

 You may have heard the story of David Bulmer-Rizzi from Britain, who passed away in Adelaide recently while honeymooning with his husband Marco. Unfortunately in this case we saw Marco treated with disrespect when he simply wanted to make arrangements for the death of somebody he loved. Such discrimination is a disgrace, and I can assure you that I am committed to removing discrimination in South Australia's legislation and will continue to advocate for marriage equality at a national level.

I agree with every single one of those words from our Premier. What I do not agree with is continuing to make these people wait for that respect and for that equality. That is why today, in concert with the member for Unley in the other place, I introduce the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration (Recognition of Same Sex Marital Status) Amendment Bill. I note that the bill is very simple. I also note that, when it comes to legislating on the basis of gender identity and sexuality in this state, even these simple bills seem to meet significant obstacles.

 However, this bill simply seeks to recognise overseas same-sex marriage with respect to recording of that marital status on the death certificate of a spouse in the case of their death. The application of this bill applies to individuals who have been married abroad on overseas soil, regardless of that foreign country being the place of their domicile or not. This includes not just tourists who come to South Australia on honeymoon but also South Australians who are forced to go overseas to marry, many of whom are taking advantage of not just skipping across the ditch to walk down the aisle in our closest neighbour to our south, New Zealand, but also marrying in British embassies in the Eastern States.

 This bill puts South Australia on a par with New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania and, most recently, Victoria, all of which have reformed their laws to recognise same-sex marriages performed overseas within those particular states' legislative frameworks. We are, of course, debating this today because a man lost his partner, his husband, while on holiday in Adelaide. David Bulmer-Rizzi tragically died while on holiday in South Australia with his husband, Marco.

 When the authorities here refused to recognise that same-sex marriage, it actually caused worldwide contempt. Appropriately, our Premier apologised, not only publicly but personally. The Premier also promised to put measures in place to prevent this from ever happening again. I must comment at this point that in fact the generosity of Marco Bulmer-Rizzi shone through in the reporting of the fact that David donated his organs so that their love could live on, and no doubt those organs went on to benefit people in this state.

 David's life was cruelly cut short. In those days after David's death, Marco faced the most horrific case of 'the computer says no' that I could imagine. For the computer and the technology of our state to be unable to accommodate the fact that Marco and David had been married must have been like rubbing salt into very deep wounds.

 No doubt they had made plans for many months to come to Australia on what was meant to be part of the happiest days of their lives, celebrating their marriage and honeymooning in Australia. If those British citizens had had such an unfortunate occurrence not in South Australia but in one of the other states where overseas same-sex marriages are recognised, the salt rubbed into those wounds may not have created such a scar.

 I stand up today not just for Marco and David but, of course, for South Australians. One in particular that I would like to pay tribute to is a man with whom the member for Unley, David Pisoni, and I stood with yesterday at a press conference—that is, Andrew Birtwistle-Smith, who lost his husband, Christopher, his husband of 11 years. They were married in Canada 11 years ago. Mr Birtwistle-Smith in this past year lost his husband, Christopher, and has had to go through this process of the computer saying no.

 In his case, there is still a Coroner's inquiry. For Mr Birtwistle-Smith, at 44, with the death of his former spouse, Christopher, at 52, coming at such a young age and unexpectedly still being the subject of a coronial inquiry, at this stage the death certificate of his former spouse states 'unknown'. I hope that by the time the death certificate is formally finalised we will be able to recognise the marriage of Andrew and Christopher in the way that we should rightly recognise the marriage of Marco and David.

 I bring this bill forward with the support of South Australians for Marriage Equality, the local chapter of Australians for Marriage Equality, who approached me and some of my colleagues, and I have to agree with them that, while they were heartened by the Premier's words in January, they are tired of waiting. They are tired of waiting for events such as deaths to lead to legislative change in this place.

 We know to our shame as a state that it was the death of Dr George Duncan that finally saw legislative reform and that fortunately saw us as the first state to decriminalise homosexuality in Australia. That is a proud achievement for this state but deaths should not be what we wait for until we legislate for equality, for human rights, for human dignity and respect.

 I refer to the South Australians for Marriage Equality letter to me, dated 3 March, regarding this proposed bill which states:

     We strongly support this Bill.

 As you know, David Bulmer-Rizzi died on Saturday 9 January 2016 while on holiday with his husband Marco in Adelaide. Marco and David were legally married under British law and were honeymooning in South Australia when David tragically died in an accident.

            Following the accident, Marco was attending to the necessary affairs when he encountered a bizarre aspect of the South Australian death certificate regime. He was required to record on the death certificate either 'married' or 'not married', but the view taken by the relevant department was that this did not include a same-sex marriage legally recognised overseas.

 As you can imagine it has caused Marco and his family a great deal of pain to have to suffer the indignity of recording 'not married' on the death certificate. It is a great shame that having waited so long for the opportunity to have his love recognised in another country, Marco was faced with the prospect of his husband's death forever being recorded without that recognition because he happened to die in South Australia rather than one of the numerous other Australian states which recognised overseas same-sex marriages.

 This was not an isolated incident. We are in contact with other South Australians who have suffered the same indignity when obtaining a death certificate but they have not raised the  issue publicly because they have felt ashamed or that they are helpless to change the law.

 Your Bill will ensure that the law provides explicitly for recording of overseas same-sex marriages on death certificates in order to ensure that such a situation never rises again.

 This is an important step towards what should be the ultimate goal, namely full recognition of overseas samesex marriages and marriage equality quality reform in Australia generally.

 We support this development and all of your efforts towards respect for LGBTIQ couples in the past and going forward.

The letter is signed by Harley Schumann and Michelle Rodgers, who are the South Australian co-conveners for Australian Marriage Equality.

 In conclusion, I would like to draw the council's attention to the words of another couple. Dr Liz Coates and Dr Kim Petersen have been in a committed relationship since 2000 and formalised that with a commitment ceremony here in Adelaide in 2002. They were able to be surrounded by family and friends in Adelaide, with Liz's son being the best man. Over the next three years, they dreamed of legalising their relationship and getting married. In 2005, they travelled to Montreal in Canada and were legally married at the Palace of Justice. This was an amazing day for both of them and, this time, Liz's eldest son, who lives in Montreal, was best man. They write:

            For the past 10 years, travelling has been eventful, with recognition of our status in some countries but not others. The best experience during these times was at immigration in the United States of America in 2015 replying we are married when questioned as to what relationship we were to each other. The immigration officer then treated us respectfully as a devoted couple.

Their letter continues:

 How disappointing then to return home and not have the same respect and acceptance shown towards us. How much worse it is to know if one of us were to die that we could not be registered on the death certificate in this state as a spouse. How much worse that property cannot be jointly held without resorting to expensive legal contracts, unlike a heterosexual marriage.

 But most of all we want our friends and family here to know that we took our relationship very seriously, enough to commit to each other under Canadian law. Recognition of our marriage in [South Australia] would help achieve that.

  Kind regards,

  Kim and Liz

I do not want to see Kim and Liz have to face a tragedy to have the law reformed to accord them equality. Let us not keep these people waiting any longer: they have waited long enough. With those few words, I commend the bill to the council.

  Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. G.A. Kandelaars.

 

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  • published this page in Bills 2016-03-11 15:54:44 +1030

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