Tampa man accuses cemetery of discrimination after refusing to allow him to sign burial forms

Business allegedly didn't recognize gay marriage
Posted at 6:11 PM, Sep 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-29 18:11:49-04

A Tampa man says a local cemetery discriminated against him when he went to them in his time of need.

The state says the case is the first of its kind, since gay marriage became legal last year.

Steve Rosenstock married his partner two months after gay marriage became legal last year.

But when his spouse died in June, he says he was told he wasn't allowed to sign the paperwork for burial arrangements because the funeral director didn't recognize his rights.

“Kind hearted, loved the world, everybody loved him,” Rosenstock said, describing his husband Douglas Bodden.

Bodden was 56 when he died in June.

Rosenstock had been with him for 28 years.

The couple married on March 6th, 2015 at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Downtown Tampa.

But when it came to signing papers at the funeral home, Rosenstock says he wasn't allowed.

“They said it was illegal in the state of Florida,” he said.

Under Florida law, spouses have more rights than children and parents, when no advanced written directives are in place.

Since the funeral home wouldn't accept his signature on the burial form, Rosenstock said he had to go to an assisted living facility in Temple Terrace so his father-in-law, who has Alzheimer's disease, could sign off on the form.

“He can sign anything, he would not remember. He wouldn't remember two minutes after he signed, but they took his signature over my signature,” said Rosenstock.

The cemetery is owned by Service Corporation International, North America's largest operator of funeral homes and cemeteries, which is best known for its "Dignity" brand.

The local manager told us he couldn't comment and referred us to the corporate office.

Rosenstock says a local marketing manager told him there was a misunderstanding of the new law and assured him it won't happen again.

“I want to see non-discrimination, any same sex couple being afforded the same rights, people to be educated,” Rosenstock said.

“I don’t want anybody, when you're most vulnerable, to stand in my shoes, because it's a horrible place to be,” he said.

The Florida Department of Financial Services, which regulates funeral homes in Florida, is now looking into what happened in Rosenstock’s case.

Service Corporation International sent us the following statement regarding the incident:

“We are committed to following all applicable laws regarding the person legally authorized to facilitate burial arrangements. As part of our commitment to all of our client families, we guard their privacy and because of this, we do not discuss specific client arrangements with the media.”

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