A Mississippi funeral home has been sued for refusing to transport and cremate the body of an 82-year-old man after finding out he was gay.
Brewer Funeral Services Inc., also known as Picayune Funeral Home, allegedly refused to provide services for the deceased, Robert Huskey. His husband, Jack Zawadski, accused the funeral home of breach of contract, negligent representation, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
According to the lawsuit:
Defendants [the funeral home] abruptly refused to transport Mr. Huskey’s body and otherwise breached their agreements upon learning that the deceased was a gay man whose next of kin was his lawful husband, communicating only that they did not “deal with their kind.”
Huskey and Zawadski had been together and in love for more than 52 years prior to Huskey’s death, after which Zawadski sought a funeral home with an on-site crematorium. Court records show that Picayune Funeral Home was the only one in the county.
Lambda Legal says Picayune Funeral Home presented itself as a “full service funeral home” that strives to “meet the needs of the families” they serve. That’s what the couple’s nephew discovered when he researched the place:
We are a full service funeral home and we strive to meet the needs of the families we service. When you choose Picayune Funeral Home your loved one is with us the entire time, whether you choose burial or cremation. We own & operate the only Crematory in Pearl River County. We also own the only privately owned Perpetual Care Cemetery & Mausoleum in Pearl River County. At Picayune Funeral Home we are committed to providing our community with the best possible service in their time of need.
Picayune Funeral Home allegedly made an agreement with nephew John Gaspari to transport and cremate the body, only to refuse after discovering Huskey was in a same-sex marriage. The nursing home wouldn’t keep the body on site, either, forcing Zawadski and John to “scramble to locate another funeral home” 90 miles away.
Lambda Legal Counsel Beth Littrell called the development “shocking.”
“Almost immediately after losing his husband and partner of more than 50 years, Jack Zawadski’s grief was compounded by injustice and callous treatment from the very place that should have helped ease his suffering. Following Bob’s death, the funeral home, the only one in the area with a crematorium, refused to honor agreed-upon funeral arrangements after learning that Bob and Jack were married.”
For its part, the funeral home has reportedly denied the allegations. Picayune Funeral Home called the lawsuit “frivolous.”
(Edit: The headline for this post has been corrected.)