The South Australian government has passed a bill that recognises overseas same-sex marriages and introduces an official register for same-sex couples, following the death in January of British man David Bulmer-Rizzi.
His husband, Marco Bulmer-Rizzi, was told the death certificate would read "never married" because the state did not recognise same-sex marriages.
The bill, entitled The Relationships Register (no.1), was introduced in September, but having now been debated and approved by the South Australia Legislative Council, will shortly be implemented.
It means same-sex couples who take advantage of the register will enjoy many of the rights afforded to opposite-sex couples, including a recognition of next-of-kin status. The bill also enables South Australian same-sex couples who wish to travel to New Zealand (or any other country that enjoys marriage equality) to have their marriage legally recognised in their home state, and it will mean Marco Bulmer-Rizzi will finally receive the official death certificate for his husband reading "married".
"I can't believe it," Bulmer-Rizzi told BuzzFeed News. "I got the email at 3am this morning telling me it had passed and it's going to be implemented. I can't believe it for me and for us. It's as close to happiness as I can be – I am the happiest I've been in the last 11 months."
As well as ushering in changes for LGBT people, the bill – which was introduced by the Labor party's Katrine Hildyard – also introduces equal opportunity protections for intersex people.
The Green party's Tammy Franks, a member of the South Australian Legislative Council, said: "The Greens, like so many others were outraged by the discriminatory legislation that did not recognise relationships such as Marco and David Bulmer-Rizzis' marriage. We sought to rectify this with a bill earlier this year – and we are proud to have supported the government in passing their own bill today."
Last week Jay Weatherill, the premier of South Australia, made a speech in parliament supporting the bill, noting Marco Bulmer-Rizzi's experiences and offering a formal apology to all LGBTQI people.
"I want you to know that who you are is OK and that you are a welcome part of the broader South Australian community and today as premier and a member of parliament to formally say sorry to all of you that have suffered injustice and indignities simply because of who you are," he said.
When Marco Bulmer-Rizzi spoke exclusively to BuzzFeed News in January to reveal what had happened to him – including the fact that all end-of-life decisions had to be approved by his father-in-law as Bulmer-Rizzi was not considered the next of kin – the story went viral around the world, garnering widespread newspaper and television coverage and reigniting the campaign for same-sex marriage in Australia.
Within hours Weatherill telephoned him to apologise, and promised him both a new death certificate and that the law would be changed.
In the meantime, Bulmer-Rizzi was given an interim death certificate. The scandal surrounding the way he was treated also led to a series of policy changes in the UK. The Foreign Office invited Bulmer-Rizzi in to meet officials to explain what more could be done to avoid other LGBT people being subjected to what he endured.
This resulted in the Foreign Office changing its death certificate policy so all British citizens could obtain a UK-style death certificate recognising same-sex marriages, wherever in the world they died. It also introduced a new system whereby British same-sex married couples could obtain a next-of-kin letter when travelling so that if one was struck down by illness, accident, or death, the other partner could present the document to medical staff and officials, in the hope that their relationship status would be respected.
"At some point today I will have a massive breakdown because it feels like I've been carrying all this pain and anxiety," said Bulmer-Rizzi. "I wasn't sure anyone would listen – we wouldn't be here if you [BuzzFeed News] hadn't listened to me."
After revealing what happened when his husband died following a freak accident falling down stairs – Bulmer-Rizzi disclosed to BuzzFeed News what happened next: On the way back to the UK, officials at Hong Kong airport briefly confiscated his husband's ashes because they did not recognise their marriage.
Months later, Australian immigration sent an email to David Bulmer-Rizzi telling him he'd outstayed his visa, prompting the authorities to apologise for the mistake.
Bulmer-Rizzi returned to Adelaide in September to see the relationships bill being introduced to parliament.
He added in acknowledgment of the 11 months he has spent campaigning about same-sex relationships rights in Australia: "I think David would be proud of me."