Undertaker to bereaved gay man: ‘We don’t deal with your kind’

A Mississippi funeral home is accused of breach of contract for revising to provide transport and cremation services when it found out the deceased’s next-of-kin was his husband.

Mark Joseph Stern, a writer for Slate’s LGBTQ blog, has the story:

Initially, the nearby Picayune Funeral Home seemed like a perfect choice, and Gaspari paid the company $1795 to transport and cremate Huskey’s body once he passed. But when Huskey died and the nursing home contacted the funeral home to pick up his body, it refused to do so. The funeral home had discovered that Huskey’s next-of-kin was his husband, and, realizing Huskey was gay, informed the nursing home that it did not ‘deal with their kind.’

I love defending religious freedom. I really do. I think it’s very important. But I truly hope this does not turn into a religious liberty claim. Nothing in the complaint mentions the defendants’ religious beliefs. But I can see this story getting ugly very fast.

So far, it looks to be a case of straight up discrimination and breach of contract. But it calls to mind questions about what state-level legal frameworks might have prevented this. And what kinds of relief might be sought if, for example, Mississippi law prevented discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As Stern, the Slate columnist notes, “If Picayune Funeral Home had rejected [the plaintiffs’] request before assenting to the contract, they might not have been able to sue at all.”

Let’s hope this is just an isolated act of discrimination.

But I know of some Christian legal advocacy groups that have seemingly never seen a religious freedom case they wouldn’t take. And while I can’t think of a single valid reason why a funeral director’s beliefs about marriage would compel him to tell a bereaved man that his husband’s dead body can rot for all he cares, I certainly wouldn’t put it past certain people to come up with one.

Stay in touch with Jacob Lupfer on Facebook:
About Jacob Lupfer

Jacob Lupfer is a faith and politics writer. A contributing editor at Religion News Service, Jacob is a frequent commentator on the role of faith in politics and public life. He is a doctoral candidate in political science at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. An expert on the institutional life of American Christianity, Jacob advises faith leaders on how religions people and institutions can more effectively advocate for the common good. During the 2016 election cycle, Jacob is blogging at Patheos about the role of faith in the campaign. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, Religion & Politics, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, The Christian Post, Baptist News Global, and elsewhere. Jacob lives near Baltimore with his wife and their two young children.