Gay man loses appeal for recognition as late partner’s next of kin

The Tasmanian Supreme Court has told a Hobart man who was denied next-of-kin status after the death of his partner that he cannot take a discrimination case against the Coroner.

The Court ruled that the Coroner is immune from discrimination complaints, effectively barring Ben Jago from seeking an apology, restitution, and reform through the Tasmanian legal system.

Jago’s partner of five years, Nathan Lunson, died suddenly in January 2015.

Despite precedent for the two men being recognised as legal senior next of kin, the Coroner is accused of discrimination in misapplying the law and recognising Lunson’s estranged mother instead.

“It was legally wrong and deeply unjust for the Coroner to deny me the right to be Nathan’s senior next-of-kin,” said Jago.

“I was unable to see his body, initially barred from his funeral, and given no say over his place of rest.

“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, said that lawyers had made a strong case that the Coroner’s Office should not be immune from the Anti-Discrimination Act. 

“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,” said Bartl.

Jago has decided not to appeal the Supreme Court decision because of costs but is asking Premier Peter Gutwein to act.

Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome said the Tasmanian LGBTIQ community stands with Jago and will support him in pressing for redress and reform.

“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 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.”

A protest to show solidarity with Jago will be held outside the Coroner’s Office, opposite the Royal Hobart Hospital, at 1 pm this Friday 19 March.

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