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Australian government sparks outrage by telling lesbian her marriage isn’t legal

Josh Jackman January 10, 2018

(Facebook/lorraine pacey)

An Australian government programme has told a lesbian woman that her marriage isn’t legal.

Same-sex marriage was passed in the country’s Parliament last month, and couples were able to marry without a waiver this week.

Lorraine Pacey, who lives in Brisbane, married her wife Cass in 2014, in New Zealand.

(Facebook/lorraine pacey)

Now, after government legislation upheld the public’s overwhelming 61.6% to 38.4% postal vote, Lorraine wanted to make her marriage legal in Australia.

She was returning from a year of maternity leave, and went to change her details so she could claim a child care rebate on Centrelink, which delivers welfare payments.

A message left at Lorraine’s wedding (Facebook/lorraine pacey)

To her horror, she was met with a big message in red letters telling her that her three-year marriage didn’t count.

“You indicated that your relationship status is married and recorded your partner’s sex as the same sex as yourself,” it told her.

“Under Australian law, marriages between same-sex couples are not recognised,” it continued, bluntly.

This is, of course, not the case.

(Centrelink)

The message finished: “Please ensure that you have selected the appropriate sex or relationship status for your relationship.”

Lorraine said: “I was surprised at my emotional reaction to it,” according to The Canberra Times.

Australians celebrate legalising gay marriage in Melbourne (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
(Getty)

“I took that message as being quite disrespectful and offensive.”

She said that her friends and family felt the same way.

(Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

And she added: “It just doesn’t need to be that wording, in those big red letters.”

The government’s Department of Human Services, which is in charge of Centrelink, apologised for the mistake.

(Getty)

The department also indicated that its systems were updated overnight to remove the message.

“We’d like to apologise to anybody who was distressed or offended by the message before it was removed,” said spokesman Hank Jongen.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 15: Supporters of the 'Yes' vote for marriage equality celebrate at Melbourne's Result Street Party on November 15, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. Australians have voted for marriage laws to be changed to allow same-sex marriage, with the Yes vote claiming 61.6% to to 38.4% for No vote. Despite the Yes victory, the outcome of Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey is not binding, and the process to change current laws will move to the Australian Parliament in Canberra. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
(Getty)

“Customers can be reassured that further work to update our systems to allow the department to record same-sex marriages is under way and we hope to have this rectified early next month,” he added.

“Unfortunately our current IT system houses layers of complex business rules and processes which means seemingly simple changes take time to work through to ensure they don’t have unforeseen impacts on other parts of the system.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 15: Crowds supporting the Same Sex Marriage Survey listen to politicians and advocates at Taylor Square in the heart of Sydney's gay precinct on November 15, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. Australians have voted for marriage laws to be changed to allow same-sex marriage, with the Yes vote claiming 61.6% to to 38.4% for No vote. Despite the Yes victory, the outcome of Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey is not binding, and the process to change current laws will move to the Australian Parliament in Canberra.
(Getty)

Jongen added that the department had recognised same-sex relationships for social security and family assistance since 2009.

More: Australia, Australia, Brisbane, Government, lesbian, postal vote, same sex marriage

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