South Australia introduces relationship recognition for same-sex couples and anti-discrimination protections for intersex people

Today in South Australia, landmark reforms came into effect which allow for same-sex couples married overseas to have the legal certainty and dignity of recognition under state laws.

The reforms were prompted by the tragic case of UK citizen David Bulmer-Rizzi, who died on his honeymoon in South Australia in 2015. David’s husband Marco Bulmer-Rizzi was told that he wouldn’t be recognised as Marco’s husband on his death certificate. This led to practical difficulties organising funeral arrangements and other sensitive matters at a time of great distress.

Lee Carnie, a Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the reform delivers equality, dignity and certainty for same-sex couples.

“Same-sex partners can be rendered invisible at the worst of times – when their beloved partner or spouse passes away. These changes provide legal certainty for same-sex couples married overseas to know that their relationship will be recognised on their loved one’s death certificate in South Australia. From now on, no spouse will have to face the indignity of having their relationship denied,” said Lee Carnie.

The new law also introduces a relationship recognition scheme for de facto couples regardless of their gender (similar to civil unions).

“These improvements give same-sex couples the comfort and security of knowing their relationship is recognised in South Australia, and the registration scheme removes any need to ‘prove’ your de facto relationship in times of stress such as at hospitals or aged care homes.

“The South Australian Government has shown leadership in taking its own steps to recognise same-sex couples married overseas under state laws. These are welcome steps in the right direction, but obviously the South Australian Government cannot change the Marriage Act. For that, we look to the Australian Government to hold a free vote on marriage equality as soon as possible,” said Lee Carnie.

De facto couples and same-sex couples married overseas can now have their relationships recognised in every state and territory except for the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

The same reforms also introduced anti-discrimination protections for intersex people, who are currently protected under the federal Sex Discrimination Act but not under South Australia’s Equal Opportunity Act. South Australia is the third state or territory in Australia to specifically protect intersex people from discrimination, following Tasmania and the ACT.

Intersex people are born with physical or biological sex characteristics, such as genitals, anatomy, hormonal or chromosomal patterns, that don’t fit norms for female or male bodies, and as such, face high levels of discrimination.

Tony Briffa, Co-executive Director of Organisation Intersex International Australia said OII supports laws to prevent discrimination against intersex people but expressed concern that the reforms did not go far enough.

“It means religious institutions may be able to discriminate against people for being born with a biological intersex variation. It is our hope that governments in Australia introduce laws that will genuinely protect the human rights of intersex people, including ensuring that we are not subjected to unnecessary hormonal and surgical interventions without our consent,” said Tony Briffa.

You can find more information about the South Australian relationships register here.