Australian government sparks outrage by telling lesbian her marriage isn’t legal
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.
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.
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.
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.
“I took that message as being quite disrespectful and offensive.”
She said that her friends and family felt the same way.
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.
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.
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“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.”
Jongen added that the department had recognised same-sex relationships for social security and family assistance since 2009.