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.