John M. Becker

Idaho Vet Offers to Donate Burial Plot to Lesbian Couple

Filed By John M. Becker | May 01, 2014 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Army, Barry Johnson, gay marriage, Idaho, Madelynn Taylor, marriage equality, Navy, same-sex marriage

madelynn-taylor-idaho.jpgLast week, the Idaho Veterans Cemetery refused a 74-year-old Navy veteran's request to have her late wife's ashes be buried beside hers, citing the state's marriage discrimination amendment. Via the Washington Post:

Madelynn Taylor, 74, knew she didn't have much time left after her wife, Jean Mixner, died in 2012. Last December, Taylor decided to get her affairs in order and went to the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to inquire about a shared burial plot. Her request was denied.

The Idaho State Veterans Cemetery requires a valid marriage certificate for a non-military spouse to be buried alongside a veteran. Though Mixner and Taylor were married in California in 2008, their marriage isn't recognized in Idaho which passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 banning same sex marriage.

Though Taylor, who served in the Navy from 1958 to 1964, during the tumultuous years of the Vietnam War, could be buried alongside Mixner in a national veterans cemetery, she wants to be buried in Idaho where her family lives and where she built a life with her longtime partner.

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

Heartbreaking, right? Retired Army Colonel Barry Johnson thought so, so in an op-ed published in Wednesday's Idaho Statesman, he decided to try and make it right -- by offering to donate his own burial plot so Taylor and Mixner can be buried together.

An excerpt from Col. Johnson's op-ed is after the jump.

As a lifelong Idahoan and a 27-year Army veteran of two wars, I've worked beside heterosexuals, gays, lesbians and bisexuals. I've really never wanted to hear about anybody's sex life or sexual preferences, one way or another. Besides, everybody more or less knew who is who regardless, and I don't recall anybody in the military ever saying a thing about it. Never.

Frankly, the only thing traumatic about the policy change for our armed forces of allowing gays to openly serve our country was all the media making a big deal about it. It didn't change a thing for any of us doing the job. Serving in uniform has always been about earning trust and has never been about sexuality...

Then we have Madelynn Taylor, who seems like one heck of a lady. She cared for another person with all her heart and had to watch that person die. She is a veteran. She loves her country. She wants her partner by her side and she wants to eternally rest among veterans in the state she made home.

Madelynn, you deserve that.

I'll tell you what. I will donate the plot I earned in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to you and Jean. I am happy to give my fellow veteran that small peace of mind. And I do it to honor all the great Americans I've served with along the way -- gay, straight, whatever.

C.L. "Butch" Otter, Idaho's Republican governor, is not moved, intimating in a statement that the state's 2006 vote to enshrine marriage discrimination in the constitution meant that the citizens have spoken on the issue.

Reuters reports that it's unclear whether the cemetery will allow Col. Johnson to donate his plot, as the Idaho Division of Veterans Services said its policy "remains unchanged." But spokesperson David Brasuell told the Boise Weekly last week that they are "very sympathetic" to Taylor's challenge, and that they hope state and federal regulations "get in line," because Taylor has "earned these benefits due to her honorable service."

Here's hoping the state of Idaho does the right thing by returning Taylor's honorable service with compassion, not discrimination.

Photo via Boise Weekly.

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