supreme court tasmania law legal next of kin

Tasmanian man in six-year battle for next-of-kin recognition after partner’s death

A Tasmanian man has been caught in a lengthy fight for recognition as his late partner’s next of kin, as the state Supreme Court has so far failed to deliver a verdict on his complaint of discrimination.

Ben Jago said he has been exasperated at the lack of progress since he filed a complaint of discrimination against the Coroner’s Office in 2015.

After the death of his partner of more than five years, Nathan Lunson, Jago was not recognised by the state as his next of kin.

He was never able to see Lunson’s body after it was taken from their home and was excluded from the funeral process.

Lunson and Jago lived together and had planned to marry, but their relationship was not recognised because they had not registered with the state – an expectation not required of opposite-sex couples.

A previous case had also established precedent for same-sex de facto couples to be recognised as next of kin.

“This failure of the Coroner’s Office to grasp that same-sex couples have equal rights had occurred previously,” said Jago’s lawyer, Ben Bartl.

“In that case, the bereaved partner reached a conciliated resolution in the Anti-Discrimiantion Commission.

“The resolution was that the Coroner’s Office would conduct staff training in LGBTIQ+ issues including the law.

“Clearly, that didn’t work.”  

Jago filed a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner that then went to the Supreme Court.

Almost six years later, the court has still delivered no verdict.

Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome said that the state authorities have “let [Jago] down at every point”.

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

“The injustices keep building up.

“We call on the State Government to conduct a review of Ben’s case, take responsibility for its repeated failures, offer him an apology, and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

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