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.

“Interpretation” – Your not invited to “our” Weddings

Latrobe Valley Express

Cr Sindt undeterred

Latrobe City Councillor Christine Sindt says she does not intend to remove or retract a controversial post on her councillor Facebook page regarding same-sex marriage.

She briefly deactivated her official councillor Facebook page, but it returned last week and the comments on same-sex marriage remained.

Cr Sindt said she would not take down the post because “most things are subject to interpretation”.

“People have contacted me regarding the interpretation of my comment and then we have had conversations and all meetings have been positive, to date,” Cr Sindt said.

She confirmed she had received correspondence from a lawyer for Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.

Earlier this month Mr Chester said his lawyer had formally written to Cr Sindt requesting a retraction and unreserved apology regarding her Facebook comments.

The contents of the Facebook post, which cannot be reported for legal reasons, included a personal attack on Mr Chester after he declared he would support legislation to legalise same-sex marriage.

Sydney-based anti-discrimination campaigner Garry Burns has lodged a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales over the 11 June post, alleging it incited hatred against homosexual men.

US Supreme Court ruling in favour of same-sex marriage could influence debate in Australia, federal politicians say

There are three bills before the Parliament on same-sex marriage

Updated about 2 hours ago

Federal politicians say the United States Supreme Court ruling that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry could influence the debate in Australia.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the ruling, which stops US states from banning same-sex marriage, could not be replicated here.

“It’s not something the High Court could decide on its own,” he said.

But Mr Pyne said it would affect public and political sentiment.

“There appears to be momentum growing worldwide towards marriage equality,” he said.

Mr Pyne said he expects the Parliament will debate the issue of gay marriage before the next election.

“When we come back in spring, there’s every possibility that will be back on the agenda and there’ll be a vote on it and Parliament will either own it or defeat it,” he said.

There are three bills before the Parliament on same-sex marriage: from Labor, the Greens and Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm.

But Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the US decision would have little impact on the Government’s approach to the issue.

“What happens in the United States is obviously a matter for the United States, just as what happened in Ireland a few weeks ago is a matter for the Irish,” he said.

“As for our own country, obviously there’s a community debate going on.

“I have views on this subject which are pretty well known and they haven’t changed.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the decision should spur change within the Liberal Party.

“I invite Mr Abbott again, if the Parliament resumes, to take up the promise that he made and we’ve extended, to have a free vote in the Liberal Party on marriage equality,” he said.

Greens Senator Janet Rice said the US decision gave same-sex marriage advocates within the Coalition more negotiating power.

“I know there are people within the Liberal Party who want to see the Liberal Party have a conscience vote on the issue and I’m sure that the US Supreme Court decision is going to strengthen their hand in their discussions with their Liberal Party colleagues,” she said.