The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) accidentally mailed same-sex marriage surveys to residents with a barcode that included the phrase "BUMSEX," according to reports. More than 16 million survey ballots were sent to Australians under a month ago, but several recipients were shocked to discover the unusual pattern of letters written within the barcode. Survey forms were mailed out between Sept. 12-25.  

The company was forced to issue an apology to Australian residents who received the misprinted ballot cards. ABS reportedly claimed that they did not check the surveys for errors before mailing it to recipients. 

"The ABS acknowledges that in issuing 16 million barcodes it did not check and remove words and phrases that may be offensive," Deputy statistician Jonathan Palmer said in a statement Sept. 16. "The ABS apologizes to the survey recipient and will issue a new form is requested. The codes were issued using an algorithm generating more than two quintillion combinations of letters and numbers in order to generate highly secure barcodes."

Palmer added, "The ABS will check newly issued barcodes. Anyone with any concern about their barcode should contact the ABS on its Information Line or website for a new one." 

Some recipients weren't amused by the ballot error, but many others found the misprint to be comical. 

The survey was shared across various social media platforms among people from different sides of the same-sex marriage debate. Both sides, however, managed to poke fun at the situation. One user claimed in a tweet they were "moving to Australia" to participate in what the barcode phrase described, whereas another user added "Well done! to whomever spotted that."

Surveys will need to be returned by Oct. 27 to be considered in the official count. Survey results, however, will be published on the ABS website on November 15. The survey will serve as a voluntary way for Australian citizens to vote on the future of gay marriage.

The ABS controversy comes on the heels of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull voting yes to same-sex marriage. His advocacy has resulted in criticism from several Australian citizens. 

Same-sex marriage has divided Australians. Rallies for and against the legalization of the marriage law have been held countrywide. Several notable names, however, are urging for Australians to vote to approve the law.

Australian actor Liam Hemsworth showed his support for same-sex marriage in his homeland on Instagram Tuesday, saying, "I personally do not believe that same sex marriage should come down to a vote wrote. I believe it’s a HUMAN RIGHT to be able to marry the person you love regardless of gender."

 

"To all the Australians that care about equality and human rights please say YES to same sex marriage. Let's not be silly about this. Vote YES for same sex marriage in Australia," Hemsworth added.

Australian actress Margot Robbie wrote about the issue on Instagram Aug. 15, saying, "LOVE IS LOVE. Any Aussie's living overseas like me, register to vote." 

 

English singer and gay rights activist Elton John tweeted about the issue Thursday, saying, "I love Australia. I hope it can embrace the honesty and courage that seeks gay marriage as an expression of love."

LGBTQ Flag An Australian gay marriage survey mailed to resident ahead of the official vote printed "bum sex" in the barcode, People wave gay rights' movement rainbow flags during the gay pride rally in Russia on August 12, 2017. Photo: Getty Images