A British man whose husband died while the couple were honeymooning in Australia says he's suffered further trauma after his husband's ashes were taken off him on his return to the UK.
Marco Bulmer-Rizzi was transferring at Hong Kong International Airport when he says staff members confiscated his husband David's ashes, causing Mr Bulmer-Rizzi immense emotional distress.
He told BuzzFeed News that he was stopped after passing through a security point where a woman took him aside and asked what was inside the box he was carrying. “She said, ‘Who did you say died?’ And I said, ‘My husband. And this is his passport.’ And she said, ‘No. I’m gonna take this [the ashes] away’,” Mr Bulmer-Rizzi, 38, recounted.
After refusing to hand over his partner’s remains a supervisor was called in and he was left to again beg to be allowed through.
“Again I was asked who the remains were and I said, ‘My husband, David.’ At that point I wanted the world to know that it was my husband. And she asked me, ‘What do you mean your husband?’
“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.”
Travelling with human remains is legal with documentation such as a death certificate, that states that the custodian is next of kin. However, as Mr Bulmer-Rizzi was not recognised on his husband’s death certificate, he said he approached the British embassy for another form of documentation but said he was not given any.
The ashes were eventually returned to Mr Bulmer-Rizzi and he was allowed to continue home to repatriate his husband. He later made a complaint to the airport.
The same-sex couple’s union was not acknowledged under South Australian law at the time of David Bulmer-Rizzi’s death, meaning Marco Bulmer-Rizzi was not considered his husband's next of kin and, as a result, needed the approval of his father-in-law in all decisions relating to the death.
After his ordeal in Australia, Mr Bulmer-Rizzi was phoned by South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill who promised to amend state legislation to recognise overseas same-sex marriages. David’s death certificate originally stated he was “never married” but was changed prior to being issued to Mr Bulmer-Rizzi. He passed away after falling down a flight of stairs while at a friend's home in Adelaide in January. He was 32.