A gay man is suing a Mississippi funeral home for refusing to cremate his 86-year-old husband — because they didn’t want to “deal with their kind.”
John “Jack” Zawadski, 82, claims in his suit that the Picayune Funeral Home flat-out told him they wouldn’t be providing their services for his spouse, Robert Huskey, after learning of his sexuality.
The couple had been together for more than 50 years, and legally married since 2015.
“Shortly after the Nursing Home sent the signed paperwork that identified Jack as Bob’s surviving spouse, John was contacted by the Nursing Home and informed that PFH now adamantly refused to provide services,” the lawsuit alleges. “The Nursing Home relayed to John that once PFH received the paperwork indicating that Bob’s spouse was male, PFH refused service because it did not ‘deal with their kind.’”
The LGBTQ rights group Lambda Legal joined the fight Tuesday, announcing in a press release that they would also being suing the funeral home and the people who back it — Ted and Henrietta Brewer of the Brewer Funeral Services Inc. — on behalf of Zawadski and Huskey’s nephew, John Gasperi.
“What happened to this family is shocking,” explained Lambda Legal Counsel Beth Littrell.
“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,” she said. “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.”
According to the suit, Zawadski and Huskey first met in 1965 and moved to Picayune roughly 20 years ago. The small, laid-back city sits at the southernmost tip of Mississippi, just north of New Orleans.
The pair tied the knot in 2015 following the Supreme Court’s decision to do-away with same-sex marriage bans across the country.
In April 2016, Huskey got sick and Gasperi began making arrangements with the Picayune Funeral Home, along with Zawadski.
They ultimately agreed to pay $1,795 for transport and cremation services following his death on May 11, 2016.
“John was assured by a PFH representative that they would take care of everything,” the suit says.
But everything changed once the funeral home found out that Huskey was gay.
“I felt as if all the air had been knocked out of me,” Zawadski said in the Lambda press release, recalling how he learned of their refusal to transport his husband’s body and cremate him.
“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,” he added. “No one should be put through what we were put through.”
Since Mississippi law does not prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination, Zawadski could only sue the funeral home for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and the intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
His suit was filed by Lambda Legal and co-counsel Rob McDuff in Mississippi’s Circuit Court of Pearl River County. They are seeking undisclosed damages
“John 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,” Littrell concluded. “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.”
Credit: NY Post