Picayune Funeral Home Lawsuit
Picayune Funeral Home Sued For Refusing to Cremate Gay Man
A funeral home in Picayune, MS, has been sued for refusing to cremate a gay man. The lawsuit claims the home reneged on a verbal agreement to provide services for the deceased. Although the law does not prohibit discrimination against gay people, the plaintiffs say the home created a “turmoil” and permanently marred the memory of a peaceful passing.
John “Jack” Zawadski and his late partner, Robert Huskey, were married in 2015, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages could be legal. They had been living in the southern Mississippi town of Picayune for about 20 years. Bob was dying and his body needed to be cremated. His nephew, John Gaspari, called several funeral homes. Picayune Funeral Home was located 90 miles away in Hattiesburg, so the family opted for the funeral home with an on-site crematorium.
But when the funeral home discovered that Huskey had been married to a man, the service was canceled. Jack and his late husband were unable to get friends in the community to support their request. Several hours passed before the couple was able to find another funeral home to cremate their late spouse.
Eventually, Jack and his wife found another funeral home with an on-site crematorium. However, the service did not meet their standards. Their plan was to have a luncheon and memorial ceremony. Suddenly, the plans were changed and they had to abandon the luncheon.
After the wedding, Bob’s health began to deteriorate, and he was admitted to a nursing home. He lived out the rest of his days at the facility. When his death occurred, the nursing home provided paperwork that confirmed his death. At that point, the family scrambled to find a funeral home with an on-site crematorium. One of the options was Picayune Funeral Home, which had been in business for 11 years.
According to the lawsuit, the company was unaware of the fact that Huskey was married to a man. This information came to light when the nursing home began to provide documentation about the couple’s relationship. It’s not clear why the funeral home was so confused.
While the lawsuit focuses on the alleged misrepresentation, the funeral home also denied the allegations. In a statement, Brewer Funeral Services co-owner Henrietta Brewer said she was unaware of the lawsuit until it had been filed. She did not want to be drawn into a legal battle, and she had never dealt with an LGBT client before.
In addition to the lawsuit, a nonprofit organization called Lambda Legal filed a complaint on behalf of the Zawadskis and Huskey’s nephew. The organization believes the lawsuit is the first of its kind in a funeral home.
While the lawsuit does not charge any of the parties with anti-gay discrimination, it does allege that the funeral home acted with the “most egregious” discrimination. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, as well as damages for negligent misrepresentation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.