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Lesbian veteran files lawsuit after being denied burial with her wife

Madelynn Taylor (right) with her late wife, Jean Mixner.
Madelynn Taylor (right) with her late wife, Jean Mixner.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed a lawsuit yesterday on behalf of Madelynn Lee Taylor. Together with Boise attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham, the legal team is challenging Idaho state laws prohibiting Taylor, a 74-year-old military veteran, from being buried in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery with her late wife, Jean Mixner.

Taylor served in the Navy from 1958 to 1964. After her wife passed away, Taylor went to the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to make advance arrangements to have her ashes interred along with those of her wife in a granite columbarium. With the required documents in hand, her discharge paperwork and her marriage certificate, she thought the process would be straight forward since other veterans and their spouses go through the same procedure; however because same-sex marriage is not legal in Idaho, Taylor’s request was denied.

"I thought they'd say okay because in any federal cemetery it is okay, in any national cemetery," Taylor said. "I could take the same documents and get buried in Arlington if I needed to, with no problems. 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."

The lawsuit argues that Idaho’s laws prohibiting the state from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states violate the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

“Idaho is where some of our best memories together are and it’s where I want to spend eternity with Jean,” Taylor said. “I could be buried here alone, but I don’t want to be alone. I want Jean with me forever.”

“It is inexcusable that the State of Idaho refuses to honor the wishes of a veteran of our armed forces to be buried together with her spouse,” Ferguson said. “The state’s disrespect for a veteran’s honorable service to our country is one of the clearest examples of the harm and indignity that Idaho’s discriminatory marriage laws inflict on same-sex couples throughout the state. The state’s treatment of Ms. Taylor and her late wife violates the most basic principles of equality and respect for human dignity enshrined in our Constitution.”

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