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On April 23, 2014, U.S. Navy veteran Madelynn Taylor revealed that her request to be laid to rest alongside her late wife Jean Mixner has been rejected by the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise. The Idaho Division of Veterans Services said that to allow the interment of the two women would violate the state constitution's ban on the recognition of same-sex unions.
The rejection of this simple request that would be routinely granted to an eligible married heterosexual couple underlines the injustices wreaked by the state constitutional amendments that ban same-sex marriage.
As George Prentice writes in the Boise Weekly, Taylor "is victim to what may be the most egregious example of LGBT discrimination by the state of Idaho, and all she's asking for is to be laid to rest alongside her partner in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. In a cruel twist of fate, if the veterans cemetery were operated by the federal government, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would most likely have no problem with a gay veteran being buried next to a partner. The U.S. government has already indicated that it would approve."
But Taylor, now 74, wants to be buried in Idaho, where she raised calves, worked 25 years for Mountain States Telephone, and served as a volunteer EMT.
Taylor joined the Navy in 1959, when she was 18 years old. In 1965, she was outed and was asked to "name names" of other gay servicewomen. She refused.
"I told them it was none of their business, but then I was called into a courtroom. They asked if I was gay and I said, 'Yes.' I couldn't lie under oath."
Taylor was offered a terrible choice: face a court martial or voluntarily agree to an immediate administrative discharge. She accepted the latter option, but 15 years later she petitioned her dismissal. In 1979, she was granted an honorable discharged, and her full military benefits were restored.
Meanwhile, she had relocated to Boise to work for Mountain States Telephone as a central office technician and to raise calves and farm.
In 1995, she met Jean Mixner, who became the love of her life.
"Life was good," Taylor told Prentice. "I worked the farm and Jean ran a transgender support group, helping people with how to put their makeup on right. Plus, she was one of the clergy at the Metropolitan Community Church."
In 1995, the couple had a commitment ceremony at an MCC Church in Boardman, Oregon. In 2008, they married legally at the San Bernardino County Courthouse in California.
In 2012, Mixner died of complications from emphysema, and her body was cremated.
In December 2013, Taylor drove to the Idaho Veterans Cemetery hoping to secure a reservation for interment, along with her wife's ashes, in a granite columbarium. She made a point of bringing her honorable discharge papers and marriage license to show the cemetery officials.
"But the moment I said the word 'partner,' they said, 'No.' That was basically the end of the conversation," she said.
She subsequently returned to the cemetery to talk with a supervisor, but the conversation was the same.
Dave Brasuell, the state's chief administrator at the Idaho Division of Veterans Services, was clearly uncomfortable when asked about the refusal.
He told Prentice, "Yes, we have benefits that are provided directly to the vet from the U.S. Veterans Association. There is absolutely no issue when the federal VA comes down with its own policies and procedures," said Brasuell. "However, in this case we're dealing with benefits that are administered by the state, such as the veterans cemetery or the state veterans home. And that's when you have to deal with state laws."
Amendment No. 2 in the Idaho Constitution states, "a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."
Brasuell said, "We all have our personal feelings on this. We're very sympathetic to her challenge." He acknowledged, "this [veteran] has earned these benefits due to her honorable service."
"Other than being buried in a national cemetery in another state or a private cemetery. . . " Brasuell paused again to choose his words carefully. "She has the option of possibly waiting to see. . . well, to see if things change."
Taylor chose to tell her story and explain her plight because she is in ill health and fears that she has little time left. She has left instructions that her ashes be kept, along with her wife's ashes, by friends until the time comes when they may be interred together in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.
KBOI-TV reports on Taylor in the news video below.