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Widower sues Mississippi funeral home for refusing to cremate gay man

PICAYUNE, Miss. — A Mississippi funeral home is facing a lawsuit after reportedly refusing to provide services to an 82-year-old gay man who died at a nursing home last year.

According to a news release from Lambda Legal, one of the law firms representing the man’s widower, Robert Huskey and Jack Zawadski were a couple for 52 years. They retired to Picayune, Mississippi, 20 years ago and married in 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down gay marriage bans nationwide.

Huskey was moved to a nursing home soon after the wedding, and in April 2016 the couple’s nephew made arrangements with Picayune Funeral Home to cremate Huskey after his death. The lawsuit says Picayune Funeral Home’s on-site crematorium is the only one in the county.

When Huskey died on May 11, 2016, the nursing home provided Picayune Funeral Home with information on Huskey’s death and also identified Zawadski as his husband.

The nursing home called their nephew a little while later and said Picayune Funeral Home was refusing to pick up the body.

 

“I felt as if all the air had been knocked out of me,” Zawadski said. “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.”

Zawadski and his nephew had to find another funeral home with an on-site crematorium. They found one 90 miles away in Hattiesburg, but they had to find another funeral home in Picayune willing to transport Huskey’s body.

 

“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,” attorney Beth Littrell said. “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.”