“Gay-Friendly” SCI in England?
The following is from an article by David Northmore in “The Pink Paper,” a British publication, dated November 1, 1996:
A multi-million dollar American corporation is cashing in on AIDS deaths in the UK via a helpline claiming to direct the bereaved to gay-friendly undertakers.
An investigation by the Pink Paper has revealed how relatives and partners are likely to be referred to one of the 370 UK funeral firms operated in Britain by the helpline’s owners, Texas- based Service Corporation International (SCI).
The Corporation is now being probed by the Department of Trade for “acting against the public interest,” and has already been slammed by the Advertising Standards Authority for issuing misleading advertisements.
Last year the Corporation launched a National Gay Funeral Advice Helpline claiming to offer the gay and lesbian community a network of “the highest standard of professional, compassionate and unbiased funeral services available.”
But the Pink Paper has established the helpline is a marketing front for Service Corporation International’s UK-wide chain of undertakers. It operates from an address in Kensington Park Road, south London, which is shared with Ashton Funeral Service—a subsidiary of the company.
The helpline’s manager, Richard Van Nes, said callers are referred to SCI undertakers, but claimed the organisation’s database also includes independent gay and gay-friendly funeral directors.
The Pink Paper put this to the test by calling the helpline and asking for details of gay-friendly funeral directors in Brighton. Two independent gay-owned or managed undertakers operate in the area, but the helpline only referred us to George Newman and Son—part of SCI.
. . . Sarah Bavil of the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors said: “Any respectable funeral director will be gay-friendly. To emphasize the gay issue, with references to HIV and AIDS, implies ‘we want your money.’ It is clearly very tacky advertising.”