Robert Huskey and Jack Zawadski met in California in 1965. Six months into their relationship, they moved in together. In 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal, they had a small ceremony. Soon after, Huskey’s health deteriorated, and he died in 2016. Expecting Huskey’s death, Zawadski’s nephew made plans with a local funeral home, but when they received papers showing the couple’s marriage, the home cancelled on them last minute.
The Washington Post reports that Zawadski, with representation from Lambda Legal, is suing the Picayune Funeral Home for refusing service based on sexual orientation. Picayune Funeral Home was chosen because of its proximity to the couple’s Mississippi home and its on-site cremation services, which make it much easier for friends and family to attend. In his suit, Zawadski alleges that co-owner Henrietta Brewer told the nursing home they don’t “deal with their kind.”
Henrietta and Tad Baker deny that they have ever discriminated against anyone because of their sexual orientation, but did not comment further to the Post. The couple’s nephew, John Gaspari, had made the arrangements with Picayune, and had to scramble to find another business who would service Huskey. They found another funeral home with an on-site crematorium 90 minutes away, but as the initial nursing home didn’t have a morgue, yet another funeral home had to come pick up Huskey’s body first.
In the video interview above, created by Lambda Legal, Zawadski talks about the quiet life of gardening and support he shared with his husband. He told the Washington Post that they had never actually experienced much discrimination as a couple, until this incident. He wants his suit to help create laws that prohibit something like this from happening to another couple.
“They just had dishonor to my partner,” he says, through tears, “And this, I hope, brings him some honor.”