Veteran denied the right to be buried with ashes of gay partner

Jean (l) and Madelynn on Veterans Day, 2011. Photo: Boise Weekly
Jean (l) and Madelynn on Veterans Day, 2011.
Photo: Boise Weekly

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — After learning that the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery won’t allow her to be buried with her partner’s ashes, a U.S. Navy vet is working to overturn a state constitutional amendment that says Idaho doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

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

The Idaho Constitution does not allow the state veteran’s 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 veteran’s 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 in her unit 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 in Idaho—with Mixner.

“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,” 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 the 2006 voter-passed amendment that says: “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 said she was arrested twice during the recent legislative session.

For now, Taylor keeps Mixner’s ashes in her closet.

She said the boxes are smaller than the space the veteran’s 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.

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

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


Associated Press

The Associated Press is an American multinational nonprofit news agency headquartered in New York City.

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