Lawsuit claims Picayune Funeral Home refused service for gay man

A lawsuit alleges a South Mississippi funeral home refused to provide services for a man who had died after the owners found out he was gay.

Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ rights organization, announced Tuesday it had joined the lawsuit against Brewer Funeral Services Inc. dba Picayune Funeral Home, as well as Ted Brewer and Henrietta Brewer. The suit alleges breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and the intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Lambda filed on behalf of John Zawadski and John Gaspari. The lawsuit claims Picayune Funeral Home declined to provide any services for Zawadski’s husband, Robert Huskey, who died three days after his 86th birthday. Gaspari is listed as Huskey and Zawadski’s nephew in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks an undisclosed amount of monetary damages.

“What happened to this family is shocking,” Beth Littrell of Lambda Legal said in a press release. “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. 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.”

Littrell said Zawadski and Huskey had been together for more than 50 years and had moved to Picayune about 20 years ago. They married in Mississippi after same-sex marriage bans nationwide were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. In April 2016, after Huskey had fallen ill, his nephew made arrangements with the funeral home, according to Lambda Legal.

According to the lawsuit, the funeral home made repeated assurances it would take care of everything, but after Huskey’s death breached their agreements, communicating only that it did not “deal with their kind.”

The owners of the funeral home could not be reached for comment Tuesday.