Veteran works to be buried with gay partner

A woman who served in the Navy was rejected because of the Idaho Constitution.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESSApril 30, 2014 

After learning that the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery won't allow her to be buried with her partner's ashes, Boise's Madelynn Taylor is trying to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Taylor said that after her spouse, Jean Mixner, died in 2012, she went to the cemetery to make arrangements for them to be buried together. But cemetery rules require a valid marriage certificate.

Idaho's Constitution does not allow the cemetery to recognize a same-sex marriage for burial rights, said Tamara Mackenthun, a deputy administrator with the Idaho Division of Veterans Services.

"I could take the same documents and get buried in Arlington if I needed to, with no problems," said Taylor, who married Mixner in California in 2008. "But here they said it's a state veterans cemetery, not a national cemetery. So we have to go by the state laws. So, we gotta change the state laws."

Taylor, 74, served in the Navy from 1958 to 1964, when she was discharged after another recruit told superiors that she and several other women were gay. Taylor later petitioned and had her discharge revised to honorable.

As a longtime Idaho resident with brothers and sisters in the state, Taylor said she wants to be buried here - with Mixner.

"I just feel that it's the right place for me. You know, I'm a veteran," Taylor said. "But I don't want to be alone. I want Jean with me."

Taylor, who said she is usually a "background" person, has begun lobbying to overturn Idaho's 2006 voter-passed amendment, which states: "A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."

She joined the Add the Words campaign that sought to amend the state's Human Rights Act to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. She was arrested twice during the recent legislative session.

Add the Words protesters returned to the Capitol on Monday to support Taylor's cause. They carried signs with such messages as "Gov. Otter, choose compassion over politics," and "Gov. Otter, let Lee and Jean rest together."

Gov. Butch Otter said in a statement, "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."

For now, Taylor keeps Mixner's ashes in her closet. She said the boxes are smaller than the space the cemetery allots for cremains.

"Two of them will fit in there easily," Taylor said. "If they're going to put me in there, they might as well slide in a second box.

"I don't see where the ashes of a couple old lesbians is going to hurt anyone."

Taylor said that if she dies without both being accepted for burial, someone will keep their ashes together until the rules change.

The Spokesman-Review contributed.

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