UK government will issue letters to help same-sex couples ensure rights worldwide
The UK government has confirmed it will implement next-of-kin letters for married British same-sex couples – to help ensure their rights are respected around the world.
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”.
He also had to battle for the right to keep his husband’s remains, as airport security staff could not confirm he was ‘next-of-kin’.
Following the very public ordeal, the UK government has announced it will implement a new system – which allows same-sex couples to request a letter confirming their legal status.
This means that even in countries where their marriage is not recognised or understood, same-sex couples would hopefully be able to establish they have next-of-kin rights.
According to Buzzfeed News, Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Hugo Swire confirmed the changes in a letter to Mr Bulmer-Rizzi’s MP Bridget Phillipson.
He wrote: “I am sorry that Mr Bulmer-Rizzi felt unsupported by the British Government at a time when he was most in need of help.
“We strive to offer a high level of support to British nationals who find themselves in difficulty overseas and constantly work to improve the service we give.”
The letter continues: “Mr Bulmer-Rizzi suggested that consular staff should be able to issue documentation confirming a spouse’s status of next of kin.
“We have now made available to staff new guidance to enable them to issue an official information note that confirms that the UK authorities, including British consulates, will normally view a spouse or civil partner as next of kin where the relationship is a same-sex one as much as for opposite-sex couples.
“There is no guarantee that a foreign authority will take the same view if it does not recognise same-sex marriage, but we hope it will make clear to those authorities our position and support to a British spouse or civil partner.”
It adds that bereavement packs will be “made more relevant” and less heteronormative, while the government will explore how to communicate risks to same-sex weddings.