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Mississippi funeral home facing allegations of discrimination

June 20, 2017

The family of the late Robert Huskey is pursuing legal civil action against a Picayune, Louisiana funeral home that reportedly told the family members that they did not “deal with his kind,” referencing his gay marriage. The family had seemingly finalized arrangements to cremate the remains of the late Robert Huskey. With payments made and paperwork pending after the 86-year-old’s death, the family believed the paperwork was done. However, the paperwork listed one John Zawadski as the deceased’s husband, so the funeral home backed out of the arrangement.

John Gaspari, the biological nephew of the widowed Zawadski, had taken over funeral planning in an effort to relieve his uncle of the burden. He grew up viewing Huskey as an uncle and felt outrage and disgust that such prejudices persisted even against a dead man.

In the wake of the decision to refuse funeral services, Gaspari scrambled to find an alternative. He secured another funeral home in Hattiesburg, a 75-mile drive from Picayune. Unfortunately, due to the new nursing home’s lack of a morgue to hold the body until the hearse arrived, Gaspari had to hire the services of yet another funeral home to hold the body for a few hours. Given the distance of the new venue, Gaspari cancelled plans for the luncheon following the burial.

Huskey had taken ill due to heart ailments in his final years. He’d previously undergone bypass surgery, but his condition deteriorated to the point where he could no longer receive proper care at home.

When asked for comment, Henrietta Brewer, the co-owner of the Picayune Funeral Home, denied that her business refused crematory services due to sexual orientation. Furthermore, she insisted that nobody from the home had spoken the words “their kind” to any other party, including the nursing home staff.

While Zawadski is seeking monetary damages, he clarifies that his goal is to ensure that no families go through such experiences in the future.

Larry Bellomo is an Orange County attorney with over 30 years of experience practicing Bankruptcy and Family Law. If you feel that your civil rights have been violated because of your sexual orientation, you might want to seek legal counsel. Our attorneys can provide you with specific guidance relevant to your situation.