A LEADING Sydney lawyer who specialises in family law for couples in the LGBTI community was horrified to learn a man in Tasmania was denied next-of-kin status after his partner died in January this year and has sage advice for others to avoid the same experience.
Ben Jago was not recognised as the next of kin or allowed to have any say in his partner’s funeral after he found him dead in the home they had bought together in Hobart.
[showads ad=MREC]Jago and Nathan Lunson, 24, who had been together for five years, planned to marry in New Zealand next year. Despite not officially registering their relationship. they should have been afforded full spousal rights because their relationship would have been recognised as a “significant relationship” in the Tasmanian Relationship Act.
A significant relationship is the equivalent of a de facto relationship in other Australian states and territories.
Jago, 29, lodged a complaint with the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission against the Tasmanian Coroner’s Office and the Tasmania Police for disregarding his legal rights as a same-sex partner.
“I haven’t really been able to grieve,” Jago told Fairfax Media.
“To be treated like I meant nothing to him, left me feeling like part of my soul had been crushed to dust.”
Sydney-based family lawyer Michael Tiyce said he couldn’t believe how Jago and his relationship with his partner were treated with such disregard in this day and age.
“It reminded me of how same-sex de facto partners were often treated not that long ago,” he said.
“This indignity is an illustration of why the Marriage Act needs to be amended by [federal] parliament and full unequivocal married relationship status accorded to gay couples who wish to be married.”
While the de facto status of their relationship should have guaranteed Jago as Lunson’s next of kin, Tiyce said there were a number of legal options people could take to ensure their final wishes are respected.
“An executor of a will is responsible for the disposition of the deceased’s body, for example by burial or cremation,” he said.
“Appointing your partner as your executor would generally resolve the issue, and it is important that such documents as wills, powers of attorney and enduring guardianship appointments refer to partners as such rather than simply by name to avoid any confusion.”
Since Jago’s story became public over the weekend, a number of people from across the country have contacted Australian Marriage Equality (AME) to reveal similar events happening to them.
“It’s a surprise to many people that this still happens,” AME national director Rodney Croome said.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise when there’s a key national law that enshrines prejudice and disrespect against same-sex couples.”
Help is available if you or someone you know is in need of assistance or counselling. Contact Lifeline on 131 114; MensLine on 1300 789 978 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.[showads ad=FOOT]