I was treated “like I meant nothing” after my partner died

Grieving  man Ben Jago says has partner’s sudden death left him bereft and without rights after the authorities did not recognise him as next of kin.

Ben Jago’s partner Nathan ended his own life after struggling with mental illness – but despite their rights as de facto partners, Ben was not allowed to have any say in Nathan’s funeral, during which their relationship was not even recognised or mentioned.

“When I found his body I was distraught, disoriented and overwhelmed – what followed made the situation worse than I could possibly have imagined,” Ben told the Launceston Examiner.

He says he was treated like his relationship meant nothing. “Nathan was my soul mate and I feel I had a connection with him I will never have with anyone else again,” he explained.

“Several hours after his death I was interviewed by the police, who told me his mother would be recognised as next-of-kin instead of me, and that she would be given custody of his body.”

Ben was not informed of the details of the Nathan’s funeral. He was excluded from funeral planning, and was unable to honour his partner’s wishes to be cremated in Hobart.

“I contacted the Coroner’s Office and was told I could only be considered next-of-kin if I went to the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages and registered our relationship. When I contacted that office I was told both parties had to agree to registering the union which was now impossible.

“I didn’t know it then, but under Tasmanian law I was deemed to be Nathan’s significant partner and next-of-kin, even without registering our relationship,” Ben explains.

“It is not enough to be deemed a ‘significant’, ‘de facto’ or ‘registered’ partner when this can be ignored by people in authority.”

The couple had planned to get married in New Zealand at some point, having been engaged for over a year.

Ben has now lodged a case 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.

Ben’s story shows how the recognition of same-sex partners as de facto partners is not enough to ensure same-sex partners will be treated equality and fairly if the worst case scenario happens, says LGBTI equality campaigner Rodney Croome.

“It is still too easy for officials to treat us as if we have no spousal rights at all,” he explains.

“As long as the Marriage Act says same-sex relationships don’t matter, the existing legal rights of same-sex couples will be easier to disregard.”

Affected by the issues in this story and need to talk? Call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or QLife on 1800 184 527.