The family of a Wearside man who died in a tragic honeymoon fall in Australia said he would be proud of his husband’s fight with the authorities down under to have their marriage recognised.
David Bulmer-Rizzi, 32, never recovered after he was left on a life-support machine following a fall down a flight of stairs while staying at a friend’s house in Adelaide with his husband Marco, 38, a week ago.
They were married, we were really happy for him and Marco and what has happened is awful, but as Nigel said, we’ve been in the bottom of a pit and someone had been digging it even bigger.Jane Bulmer
But when Marco and David’s dad Nigel – who had flown out to South Australia from the family home in Houghton – went to register his death, they were left distraught when told their same-sex marriage was not recognised by the South Australian state and that his death certificate would say “never married”.
A funeral director asked Nigel to approve all arrangements as Marco was not considered next of kin.
Marco’s anguish sparked world-wide interest and now SA Premier Jay Weatherill has phoned him to personally apologise and pledged to change the law so the state would recognise overseas marriage and to provide the grieving husband with a new death certificate stating David’s correct marital status.
David’s mum Jane, 58, a mum of two, told the Echo: “He was always very angry about injustice and he would be cheering Marco on.
“He was never one for going quietly and in a way, this is just like him.
“They were married, we were really happy for him and Marco and what has happened is awful, but as Nigel said, we’ve been in the bottom of a pit and someone had been digging it even bigger.
“Nigel said they just wouldn’t speak to Marco and kept saying he was David’s partner, not husband.
“At first, I thought that it would just be a piece of paper, and that we all know that marriage is much more than that, but it was humiliating.
“Nigel said he was really offended by the way Marco was spoken to. We have been 100% behind Marco, he is our family.”
Jane said David had moved back to the North East from London last spring as he and Marco moved into Elba Park.
She added: “He was funny, he was larger than life and just the fact that people he went to university with, who knew him all that time ago, have been in touch, everything they have written about him has been spot on and I can tell just how well they knew him.
“He was quick and clever, and so proficient with language, spoken and written – it was his skill.
“We are devastated.”
David has been cremated, with a private ceremony planned for close friends and family next month.
He had been diagnosed with a kidney condition which would have led to dialysis and a transplant later in life and, following his death, Marco honoured his wish to become an organ donor, with his organs helping to save the lives of three others.
“Marco asked people to do something in their own community at the time when he was cremated and to raise a glass, so people then put on the photos of them doing that on Facebook to David,” said Jane.
The couple married in London last June and then held a week-long celebration for their loved ones in Santorini, Greece.
Their three-week honeymoon took them on a tour around Australia, which saw them snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, see in New Year in Sydney, visit Alice Springs, Perth, Cairns and Melbourne.
David, who went to school in Park View School in Chester-le-Street, completed a degree in combined studies at Newcastle University, then took a year sabbatical to become a Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender officer there before taking on other jobs.
On his return to the North East, he worked as part of a support service through coroner’s officers in the region, then joining Eleven Arches in Bishop Auckland, where was in charge of the volunteering project for the entertainment shows when they are launched in the summer.
Marco, who will return to the UK later this week with Nigel, has written to David Cameron, the UK Foreign Office and Bridget Phillipson, Houghton and Sunderland South MP, urging them to defend their own laws in foreign territories.
Speaking about Mr Weatherill’s apology, he said: “He (David) probably would be proud.
“I don’t know if David would even believe it.
“The fact that through him maybe this is never going to happen to somebody else is such a good thing.”