Barone v. Har Jehuda Cemetery
Case on behalf of Sherry Barone who was prohibited from placing a headstone that her deceased partner had requested at her grave.
Sherry Barone and Cynthia Friedman had been together for 13 years when Friedman passed away from cancer at the age of 35. In several discussions before her death, Friedman had asked that Barone include the inscription on her headstone: “Beloved life partner, daughter, granddaughter, sister and aunt.” Days after Friedman’s death, Barone signed a contract with Har Jehuda Cemetery for two adjoining plots and a headstone. Friedman’s religious principles meant the headstone should have been unveiled one year after she died, but the cemetery had refused to act on Barone’s instructions to follow her loved one’s wishes that “life partner” be included. After filing suit on Barone’s behalf, Lambda Legal settled with the cemetery outside of the courtroom.; The cemetery agreed to erect the headstone in accordance with Friedman’s wishes and also to compensate Barone $15,000.
Because the government denies same-sex couples the right to marry, they are constantly struggling for recognition of their relationships, even after death. Despite the fact that Barone and Friedman had drawn up wills, had legal powers of attorney and had given explicit instructions to one another regarding what to do in the event of their death, the cemetery still refused to follow Barone’s instructions. Barone’s suffering as she watched the wishes of her partner be disrespected highlights the pressing need for equal recognition of same-sex relationships.
Lambda Legal’s Impact
Lambda Legal’s victory in this case sent a message that committed relationships between people of the same sex are just as legitimate as heterosexual marriages. The cemetery’s decision to not follow Barone’s instructions, and then have to pay damages because of its decision, serves as a warning to businesses everywhere that there is a price to pay for discrimination.