A Brisbane woman who married her wife in New Zealand four years ago was this week told Centrelink would still not recognise her relationship, according to The Canberra Times.
Lorraine Pacey tried to update her details on Centrelink’s website, only to receive an error message in red letters: “You indicated that your relationship status is married and recorded your partner’s sex as the same sex as yourself. Under Australian law, marriages between same-sex couples are not recognised.”
“I took that message as being quite disrespectful and offensive,” she said.
“It just doesn’t need to be that wording, in those big red letters.”
The Department of Human Services said its systems were updated overnight to remove the error message for same-sex marriages.
Department spokesman Hank Jongen said Centrelink had recognised same-sex relationships for social security and family assistance purposes since 2009.
“We’d like to apologise to anybody who was distressed or offended by the message before it was removed,” said Jongen.
“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.
“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.”
Centrelink has come under fire from the LGBTI community before.
Gender diverse students have complained that Centrelink’s system does not allow for non-binary gender markers, meaning their details may not match their university enrolment forms.
Some non-binary students have even been threatened with their payments being cut off due to the mismatch.
The Centrelink system allowing only binary gender to be recorded is at odds with federal government guidelines released in 2013, which recommend allowing a third gender option.