Not only has Toronto man John Gilius lost the love of his life, but there is no legal record that their relationship ever existed.
On Sunday, it will be two years since Mr Gilius’ partner died in his arms after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
The pair shared a home in Newcastle, welcomed each other into their extended families and held a civil union ceremony to celebrate their love, but they could never get married.
On his partners’ death certificate, Mr Gilius is listed simply as “informant”.
He has been left without any marker of their relationship other than the gold ring he still wears on the fourth finger of his right hand.
Mr Gilius told his story when Australians For Equality director Tiernan Brady visited Newcastle on Wednesday, as voting continued in the same sex marriage postal survey.
“We were together not very long – four years in total – but within two years he was diagnosed with cancer and gave me the option to leave because he thought it would be too hard. But I loved him, so I stuck by him,” Mr Gilius said.
“He declared at my 40th birthday in front of everyone that one day he was going to marry me. At the age of 41, we had a civil union. It was a beautiful occasion, but unfortunately that’s as far as we could go. The moment he died, I lost everything.”
Because Mr Gilius and his partner were unable to marry, there is no legal record that their relationship existed – nor does Mr Gilius have the rights of someone whose spouse has died. His partner had not filed for divorce or annulment from his previous marriage when he died.
The most jarring part, Mr Gilius said, was being listed on his partner’s death certificate as “informant”, which made him appear as if he was no-one to the man who, if the law was different, could have been his husband.
“In history, our relationship is non-existent. In life, I had this unconditional, beautiful love with this man and I wanted it to be noted,” he said. “All we’re asking for is that piece of paper to be legally recognised. It doesn’t change marriage, it doesn’t change families, it doesn’t change schooling – it changes nothing but those two people’s lives.”
Mr Brady repeated his reminder during his visit on Wednesday for people to fill in their survey forms and put them in the post as soon as possible.
“This about real people who live in our communities and love our communities just as much as we do,” he said. “They members of our family, they are our friends, they’re our neighbours and they’re our work colleagues and they just want to be treated the same as everybody else – nothing more, nothing less.”