‘We don’t deal with their kind’ funeral home faces lawsuit
Mississippi’s Picayune Funeral Home claims that ‘we are committed to providing our community with the best possible service in their time of need’.
But when it was asked last year to collect the body of Robert Huskey, 86, PFH flatly refused to do so when it discovered that Huskey was a gay man who was married to Jack Zawadski, above, his partner of 52 years, and told the family ‘we don’t deal with their kind’.
Today, a lawsuit was launched against the home, which had been contracted before Huskey’s death to deal with the funeral arrangements.
Robert Huskey passed away in May 2016 after his heart condition worsened over the previous year. Knowing that his death was imminent, Huskey’s nephew, John Gaspari, had made arrangements with the local funeral home the month before his passing.
According to this report, Zawadski said in a statement released Tuesday:
I felt as if all the air had been knocked out of me. Bob was my life, and we had always felt so welcome in this community. And then, at a moment of such personal pain and loss, to have someone do what they did to me, to us, to Bob, I just couldn’t believe it. No one should be put through what we were put through.
When the nursing home where Huskey died called Gaspari to explain that the funeral home was refusing to handle the body, the family scrambled to find another one in the area. They had to work fast, because the body could not stay at the nursing home.
The family found another funeral home with cremation services that would take Huskey’s body. It was 90 miles away.
Lambda Legal attorney Beth Littrell, who filed the lawsuit, said that the home — and parent company Brewer Funeral Services — are being sued for breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent misrepresentation. It says PFH’s advertisements described on its website:
Contained assertions, representations and/or statements of fact which are untrue, deceptive and/or misleading.
Gaspari made all necessary arrangements before Bob’s passing in order to shield his 82-year-old uncle from additional suffering and to allow friends to gather to support Jack in his grief. Instead, Bob’s peaceful passing was marred by turmoil, distress and indignity, adding immeasurable anguish to Jack and John’s loss. This should not have happened to them, and should not be allowed to happen again.
In a phone call to the Picayune Funeral Home, a staffer said the company’s attorney forbade discussing the lawsuit.
No federal or Mississippi state law protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination – in fact, Mississippi’s controversial House Bill 1523 was signed to protect the rights of businesses that turn away LGBTQ customers because of moral or religious opposition.
Lambda Legal is fighting HB 1523 in court, too, and a judge blocked the law from taking effect until a higher court gives a final ruling on whether it’s unconstitutional. But in the meantime, there’s still no law protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
The state of anti-discrimination laws in Mississippi is virtually nonexistent. Certainly not in Picayune.
She said the funeral home’s decision to refuse services to Huskey’s family was “profoundly wrong”.
Federal legislation introduced on Tuesday would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which currently bans discrimination based on race, colour, sex, religion or national origin.
At an introduction ceremony for the Equality Act, Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said passage of the bill will end the “patchwork” of nondiscrimination protections currently offered by only some cities and states. Griffin said:
No person’s fundamental civil rights should be determined by which side of a state line they live on. But at this very moment, half of LGBT Americans live in a state where they are at risk of being fired, denied housing or refused service simply because of who they are. That’s un-American.
Rob Hill, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Mississippi chapter, told NBC News that his office is “deeply disappointed” by the funeral home’s actions.
All Mississippians — regardless of who they are or whom they love — deserve to be treated with respect. We will continue to push for expanded, statewide protections for LGBTQ Mississippians so that this type of unconscionable discrimination will be prevented in the future.
Ashers in the news again
Meanwhile, it’s been reported here that Belfast’s Christian-owned Ashers Baking Company, which fell foul of Northern Ireland’s equality laws when it refused to bake a “support gay marriage cake” has turned down a another request to create a cake, this one saying:
Gay marriage rocks! Happy engagement, Andy and Joe! Lots of love xxx.
Grainne McCann, a London-based woman from Northern Ireland said hat she ordered and paid for the cake online, but the order was rejected the next day.
We were thrilled when Ashers accepted our online order, and full payment of £23.40 plus £20 post and packing, but the next day they sent the cancellation note and a refund.
Commenting on Premier Christian Radio’s report, our old friend, the Internet troll Bob Hutton, said:
I’m beginning to think that that people who run Premier are obsessed with the issue of homosexuality. Every time I open my e-mails and look at the latest articles there is at least 1 article promoting this filth. Are the people who run Premier closet homosexuals??
No Bob, you’re the closet case obsessed with homosexuality, as the latest post on your pathetic Gospel Truth demonstrates.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn (Ashers report).