Gay man denied next-of-kin rights still waiting for closure


Tasmania Ben Jago discrimination case
Photo: Supplied

A gay Tasmanian man who was denied next-of-kin rights has been left waiting almost two years for his case to be resolved in the state’s Supreme Court.

Ben Jago’s partner of five years, Nathan Lunson, died by suicide in January 2015. In 2015, police and the state’s Coroner failed to recognise him as the next of kin of his deceased partner.

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The grieving man was refused access to his partner’s body and was initially barred from attending the funeral.

After negotiating with Lunson’s family, Jago did attend but could only sit at the back of the funeral. He wasn’t mentioned during the ceremony as Lunson’s partner.

At the time the couple could not marry in Australia. They did not have a “registered relationship” in Tasmania – a civil union – but under the state law they still shared a “significant relationship”.

Jago subsequently lodged a discrimination complaint. However the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal rejected it on the basis that the Coroner’s Office is immune to such legal action unless they’ve acted in “bad faith”.

The man then took his case to the state’s Supreme Court in Hobart in early 2019.

Jago said all he wanted was to “make my case that I suffered discrimination, and to do my best to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

He said he wants an apology and legal reform so the same thing doesn’t happen to other unmarried, same-sex couples.

Ben Jago’s next of kin discrimination case still not resolved almost two years on

However Ben Jago is still waiting for a result. Lawyer Benedict Bartl from Hobart Community Legal Service said the Tasmania Supreme Court received final submissions 21 months ago.

“[He] is exasperated at the length of time it has taken to receive a decision from the Supreme Court,” Bartl said.

“It has been more than five and a half years since he filed his complaint of discrimination. [It’s] almost two years since his Supreme Court appeal was heard.

“No decision has yet been handed down.”

Responding to the case, Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome said authorities “have let this young man down at every point.”

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“They failed to recognise him as his late partners’ next-of-kin despite the law saying he was,” he said.

“They failed to hear his case when he took a discrimination complaint, they failed to deliver a timely judgement when he appealed to our highest court. The injustices keep building up.”

Croome called for the Tasmanian government to review the case and “take responsibility for its repeated failures.”

“[They should] offer him an apology and make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

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