74-year-old US Navy veteran Madelynn Taylor wants to be buried with her wife Jean Mixner’s ashes but Idaho’s state military cemetery won’t let her while that state retains its ban on same-sex marriage.
Taylor had been in a relationship with Mixner beginning in 1995 but she died of emphysema in 2012 and was cremated – leaving Taylor to think about what she would like to have done when she died.
She decided she wanted to be interred with Mixner’s ashes but when she contacted Idaho Veterans Cemetery in November to reserve a plot she was told that they could not be buried together.
It’s not even an issue of space. Taylor wants to be cremated too and both women’s ashes could easily fit in the same niche in the cemetery.
But the Idaho state constitution bans any recognition of same-sex marriage so the couple’s 2008 California marriage cannot be recognized by the cemetery.
The Idaho Division of Veterans Services says they have to abide by the Idaho state constitution.
Taylor told KBOI 2 News that she is concerned that she may not have much longer to live.
‘I'm a stroke waiting to happen,’ Taylor said, ‘I don't see where the ashes of a couple old lesbians is going to hurt anyone.’
Taylor and Mixner could be buried together in a national military cemetery but Taylor wants to be buried in Boise where there are family close by.
Taylor said she has gone public with her story in the hope it will move legislators and she has joined the Add The Four Words campaign who have been holding silent protests in the Idaho Statehouse since 2010 in support of Idaho passing legislation protecting LGBTI people from discrimination.
The 74-year-old was even arrested as one of those protests last month.
Taylor spent six years in the US Navy before being dishonourably discharged after her superiors learned of her sexual orientation though she had that amended to honorable following the repeal of the ban on openly gay and lesbian people serving in the US military.
She told KBOI 2 News that being discriminated against was nothing new for her.
‘I'm not surprised,’ Taylor said, ‘I've been discriminated against for 70 years, and they might as well discriminate against me in death as well as life.’
Taylor says if lawmakers do not act before she dies she will leave instructions with a friend to hold onto both their ashes so that they can be interred together when Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage finally comes to an end.