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The Abandoned and Historic Cemeteries Act Passes in Florida

Bill HB 49 in Florida was unanimously approved at the beginning of May. The bill, sponsored by House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell, requires the Historic Cemeteries Program to provide funding for the research, restoration, and maintenance of abandoned African American cemeteries.

More at Legislature approves bill for new program to reclaim abandoned African American cemeteries

HB49 - Abandoned and Historic Cemetaries

Dignity in Death Petition to Amend the U.K.’s Gender Recognition Act

A petition asks that the UK government allow trans people’s birth certificates to be amended after they die. The petition opened on February 15, 2023 and will run for six months. The petition requests that the families of dead trans people who were not able to acquire a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) in life be allowed to apply for posthumous GRCs and reissued death certificates. The petition also requests that terminally ill trans people be allowed to acquire a GRC. In both instances, the GRC would be issued through statutory declaration, bypassing the bureaucratic headache that it takes to acquire a GRC the normal route in the UK.

U.K. residents can read and sign the petition through August 2023.

California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau vs. Death Doulas

A court case in California could force death doulas who provide information and non-medical support to dying people and their families, to become licensed funeral directors.

Full Circle of Living and Dying, a California based nonprofit that provides end-of-life and after death care education is at the center of a legal battle with California’s Funeral and Cemetery Bureau that could impact the public’s right to death education and information and how death doulas work in the future. For details on this case read our article Defending Your Right to a Good Death, and listen to an interview with Akhila Murphy from Full Circle and Ben Field, attorney at the Institute For Justice.

People holding burning torches

Bill to Legalize Open Air Funeral Pyres Introduced in Vermont

Vermont Rep. Matt Birong introduced Bill H.216 which aims to make open air funeral pyres legal in the state. The bill was able to utilize the framework from previously approved bill H.244 which legalized composting there in 2022. There is also an equity and inclusion piece to the bill, as Birong says “If we are being genuine about being more open and accepting to broader… races, creeds, religions, funerary tradition should be a serious part of this conversation.”

Currently the only public funeral pye is located in Colorado, with additional legalization efforts ongoing in Maine and Minnesota.

More at A Lawmaker’s Quest to Legalize Funeral Pyres.

Removing Racist and Discriminatory Language From Mortuary College Dress Codes and Handbooks

A recent effort led by funeral director and educator Joél Maldonado, to have racist and discriminatory language and dress codes removed from Mortuary Science school materials was the subject of a recent episode of Order of the Good Death’s podcast, Death in the Afternoon. Dress codes and schools that ban “cornrows, ponytails, dreadlocks, braids” and reference to the all other natural and protective hairstyles adorned by BIPOC students and professionals as being unprofessional is discriminatory and shows a disregard for the religious, spiritual and cultural nuances. This messaging also communicates to communities of color that representation of and care for BIPOC decedents is also not valued.

Maldonado gave The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and American Board of Funeral Service Education a petition she created, and the accompanying comments.

Efforts to Legalize Aquamation in Texas Underway

The Order has partnered with Live Free Die Free to help expand sustainable death care choices in Texas. As part of the 88th legislative session (spring 2023), Representative Ann Johnson of Harris County filed H.B. 2895 on February 27 to amend the definition of cremation under Texas state law and include water cremation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis, as a choice for all Texans. This is the third legislative motion to expand Texans’ rights to choose their preferred method of disposal of remains.

Sign the petition to voice your support.

The Fight to Regulate the Body Broker Industry Continues

While donating one’s body to science is considered a noble act, it doesn’t come without risks. Currently, there is no federal oversight which can lead to confusion and misunderstandings about how a body will be used, and leaves grieving individuals and their families vulnerable to being exploited by body brokers.

With the hope of protecting future donors the Consensual Donation and Research Integrity Act was introduced at the end of 2022. The bill would create standards for registration, inspection, chain of custody, labeling and packing, and proper disposition to ensure donated bodies are not unknowingly contributed to a for-profit industry in which body brokers take advantage of donors and their families.

Watch the recent CBS News documentary on Body Brokers.

Updating the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule

At the beginning of 2023 The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was considering updating and strengthening The Funeral Rule which requires funeral homes to provide consumers with prices if requested in-person or by phone, to include other forms of communication like email, and websites. Since the Funeral Rule was created in the 1980s it doesn’t include modern forms of communication like emails and texting, or websites. Consumers can potentially save thousands of dollars on funeral costs by shopping around and comparing prices, however the FTC’s 2020 review found that over 60% of funeral homes had little to no pricing information on their websites. This update would not only be beneficial to everyone, but it has the potential to improve access for disabled, low income, and non-English speaking communities, as well as families planning funerals out-of-state.

The Order spoke with FTC representatives who stated that they are currently reviewing the many comments received from the public regarding their views on updating the Funeral Rule.

100 For Moses: Preserve an African American Cemetery

Maryland based organization the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition (BACC) is organizing a letter writing campaign in an effort to get 100 county residents to write letters to Montgomery County Officials demanding an end to the desecration of a historic African American cemetery.

For more read the 100 For Moses Campaign. Non Montgomery Country residents can support BACC in a variety of other ways.

Current Bills to Legalize Composting or Aquamation

  • Massachusetts – Please see our current Call to Action for this bill.
  • MinnesotaSF3134 was introduced in the House of Representatives on March 6th. It will not be voted on in 2023, but will be reintroduced in 2024.
  • Rhode Island – H6045 was introduced in March 2023.
  • New Mexico – In February 2023 Bill SB407 was introduced.
  • Maryland – On March 20, 2023, Maryland House of Delegates passed HB 1060. The bill now moves forward to the Maryland Senate.
  • IllinoisHB3158 currently has a dozen co-sponsors. It was filed on on February 16, 2023.
  • MaineBill LD536 was introduced in February 2023.
  • ConnecticutBill HBO6485 was introduced in January 2023 and is currently in progress.
  • Nevada – A bill was introduced in March 2023.
  • New Jersey – In February of 2023 Bill S3610 was introduced.
  • TexasSB105 and HB2895 seek to amend the legal definition of cremation to include aquamation.
  • VirginiaBill HJ513 directs funeral directors and embalmers to study composting and make recommendations for establishing composting facilities.