Idaho State Veteran Cemetary won't allow gay veteran to be buried next to her spouse

"I'm not surprised. I've been discriminated against for 70 years, and they might as well discriminate against me in death as well as life."
By JC Sevcik  |  April 24, 2014 at 6:08 PM
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BOISE, Idaho, April 24 (UPI) -- Madelynn Taylor, a 74-year old veteran, served in the U.S. Navy from 1958 to 1964. Serving in the armed forces was standard in Taylor’s family. “It’s what we did. When we were 18, you picked a service and joined,” she says.

Madelynn met her late wife, Jean Mixner, some years after serving her country. The two were married during a church retreat in 1995 and formally and legally wed in California six years ago.

After Jean passed away, Madelynn went to the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery with the required documents in hand -- her discharge paperwork and her marriage certificate -- to apply to be buried next to her wife when she too passes away, an application she thought would be a formality as federal cemeteries allow same-sex couples to be buried together.

But officials denied her application, saying the couple can't be buried together because same-sex marriages aren't recognized in Idaho.

"I'm not surprised," says Taylor. "I've been discriminated against for 70 years, and they might as well discriminate against me in death as well as life."

Idaho Division of Veterans Services Deputy Administrator Tamara Mackenthun says that because Idaho’s state constitution contains the language, "A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state,” the division is unable to recognize Madelynn and Jean’s marriage certificate as a “valid record of marriage.”

"I could take the same documents and get buried in Arlington if I needed to, with no problems. But here they said it's a state veterans cemetery, not a national cemetery,” says Taylor, who doesn’t want to be buried anywhere but her home, near her family.

"I just feel that it's the right place for me. You know, I'm a veteran. So they should let me... in fact they would let me alone, be in that crypt," she said. "But I don't want to alone. I want Jean with me."

"We have to follow the state law,” Mackenthun told KTVB. "We have to follow the Idaho definition of spouse."

But Taylor isn’t going to give up. She says if that is the law in Idaho, then the law needs to be changed. So she’s joined the Add the Words campaign, already being arrested twice for her activism.

“We have to go by the state laws. So, we gotta change the state laws,” she says. “It’s not taking up any more space to have both of us in there, and I don't see where the ashes of a couple of old lesbians is going to hurt anybody.”

Taylor says that if she passes before the cemetery relents, she’ll have someone keep her and Jean’s ashes together until they can be buried next to one another.

"Eventually I'm going to be there. It'll happen. They might as well give up and let us go now," she said.

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