Former Navy woman Madelynn Taylor has been denied the request for burial alongside her late wife in an Idaho veterans cemetery because the state doesn’t recognize their union — even though they legally wed in California.
“I’m not surprised.” Madelynn, 74, told KBOI. “I’ve been discriminated against for 70 years, and they might as well discriminate against me in death as well as life.”
Madelynn served in the Navy in the late 1950s and 1960s. She was discharged when someone in told superiors she suspected Madelynn was gay. (She didn’t come out to family and friends until the 1980s.) Madelynn petitioned the decision and was eventually granted “honorably discharged” status.
In 1995, she met and married Jean Mixer. They renewed their vows with a legal wedding in California in 2008 — four years before Jean passed. Madelynn then had her late wife’s body cremated. Ever since, she’s been fighting for the right to be eventually buried alongside her wife in Boise’s Veterans Cemetery.
“It’s not taking up any more space to have both of us in there,” Madelynn said, explaining the plot is the same size regardless of whether it includes the urns from one or two people. “I don’t see where the ashes of a couple of old lesbians is going to hurt anybody.”
Despite support from many people who heard Madelynn’s story, Governor Butch Otter said he will not encourage the cemetery to make an exception.
The Veterans Cemetery rules require a valid marriage certificate in order for a spouse to be buried with a veteran. Idaho’s Constitution does not recognize same-sex marriage. The voters spoke in 2006 by passing an amendment to our Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I am defending their decision and the Idaho Constitution in federal court, so I’m not going to comment any further.
Madelynn acknowledged that she could be buried alongside Jean in a national cemetery for veterans, but wants her remains to stay in Idaho, where family lives. She said that, if it comes to it, she’ll ask a relative to hold onto her and Jean’s ashes until Idaho laws are revised.