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Law

Gay man banned from giving late partner the send-off he wanted vows to keep fighting after losing lengthy court battle

Omar Balde March 21, 2021
funeral

LGBT+ activists have slammed the new law as completely "redundant" and "discriminatory". (Envato)

A gay Australian man who was denied the right to be recognised as his late partner’s next of kin has vowed to keep fighting for equality after losing a six-year legal battle.

When Ben Jago’s partner Nathan Luson died by suicide in 2015, Jago was denied next of kin rights by the Tasmania Coroner’s Office. This was despite the fact they had lived together for six years and planned to get married.

It meant he was unable to see Luson’s body and had no say in his funeral arrangements. “[I was] not being able to give him the burial, and the funeral that he wanted,” he told the Star Observer.

After his ordeal, Jago lodged a discrimination complaint that was referred to a tribunal. However, he was told that the tribunal could not take any action because Tasmanian law gives coroners immunity from anti-discrimination law.

Jago took his fight to the Supreme Court of Tasmania where he challenged the coroner’s exemptions.

However, justice Helen Wood upheld that the coroner is immune from complaints made under the anti-discrimination law, preventing him from seeking further justice.

After the ruling, Jago vowed to continue his fight in parliament.

“It was legally wrong and deeply unjust for the Coroner to deny me the right to be Nathan’s senior next-of-kin. I was unable to see his body, initially barred from his funeral, and given no say over his place of rest,” he said in a statement.

“Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, I won’t stop until I can be absolutely certain this doesn’t happen again. I will seek an urgent meeting with the state government seeking an apology, restitution for the trauma I have endured and legislative reform. I want to make sure the coroner never again puts anyone through what I went through.”

Jago’s solicitor, Benedict Bartl, added: “Unfortunately, the court did not accept our argument, so now it is time for this issue to go to parliament and for the Coroner’s Act to be amended so this doesn’t happen again.”

Equality Tasmania, a group that supports the LGBT+ communuty, asked the state government and premier of Tasmania Peter Gutwein to intervene.

“I’m appalled by the Supreme Court decision because it effectively means the coroner can ignore both the state Relationships Act, that says same-sex partners have equal rights, and the state Anti-Discrimination Act, which says LGBTIQ people should not face disadvantageous treatment,” said Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome

“When a bereaved same-sex partner was denied senior next-of-kin status in South Australia in 2016, the then state premier, Jay Weatherill, acted immediately to rectify the situation. We want Mr Gutwein to follow that precedent and ensure justice for Ben Jago.”  

 

More: Australia, human rights

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