Airport security tried to seize ashes of man’s late husband because their marriage ‘wasn’t recognised’
A gay man who tragically lost his husband on holiday was nearly parted from his remains – when airport security insisted he wasn’t ‘next of kin’.
British citizen Marco Bulmer-Rizzi was left distraught in January when his husband David died suddenly, while the pair were on their honeymoon in Australia.
He was caught in legal limbo at the time, as the South Australian government refuses to recognise same-sex marriages – meaning his husband David’s death certificate would read “never married”.
However, months later he has opened up about the horrific chain of events that followed, when he attempted to return to the UK with David’s ashes.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Mr Bulmer-Rizzi revealed that he had been returning home via Hong Kong International Airport with David’s ashes in a container when he was flagged by security.
It is entirely legal to travel with human remains, but security personnel questioned him and attempted to take the ashes away from him.
He said: “I was taken to one side and she said, ‘What’s in this box?’… she wanted to open the box.
“And I said, ‘These are human remains. It’s my husband. My husband died while we were in Australia. She just looked at me and said, ‘I need to take this away’.”
“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.’”
“I put my hand down [on the box] and said, ‘No, you can’t. I need to see your supervisor’.”
Mr Bulmer-Rizzi recalls he had a “meltdown” when the security guard attempted to confiscate the remains on the grounds that he wasn’t ‘next of kin’ – and a supervisor was called.
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He said: “Again I was asked who the remains were and I said, ‘My husband, David’… and she asked me ‘What do you mean your husband?’.
After providing his passport, his late husband’s passport and a letter from the funeral home in place of a death certificate, the supervisor overruled the decison to confiscate the ashes.
Mr Bulmer-Rizzi has complained about the incident to the airport – and also says that the British consulate did not do enough beforehand to address his concerns, when he asked for a letter to confirm he was next of kin.
The British Government changed its policy to close the death certificate ‘loophole’ after the initial incident – and South Australia is also pushing ahead with changes to it cannot happen again.
However, Mr Bulmer-Rizzi wants the Foreign Office to put more procedures in place to safeguard LGBT people, in case of similar tragedies.