Today in news that made me cry quietly at my desk, the Idaho State Veterans cemetery has refused to allow a Navy veteran to be buried beside the love of her life because of the state's ban on same-sex marriage — which is sad and stupid and endlessly infuriating. In response, a fellow veteran has offered up his plot so that the couple can (hopefully) be laid to rest together.
According to ThinkProgress, Madelynn Taylor is a retired veteran of the U.S. Navy, having served for six years just prior to the start of the Vietnam War. She met her late partner, Jean Mixner, in 1995, and the couple held a ceremonial wedding shortly thereafter (they also got legally married in California in 2008). When Jean passed away in the spring of 2012, Madelynn attempted to reserve a spot for herself and her partner's ashes in the Idaho Veterans Cemetery. Although the cemetery allows spouses of veterans to be buried with them, her request was denied.
"I'm not surprised." Taylor told KBOI News last week. "I've been discriminated against for 70 years, and they might as well discriminate against me in death as well as life." In a statement, Idaho Governor Butch Otter — a man with a flawless name but a bitter, shriveled spirit — responded thusly:
"The veteran's 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. I am defending their decision and the Idaho Constitution in federal court, so I'm not going to comment any further."
Butch Otter, you bring shame to the otter community. This whole situation is so fucking depressing and ridiculous. As Ms. Taylor so eloquently put it, "I don't see where the ashes of a couple old lesbians is going to hurt anyone."
Retired U.S. Army Col. Barry Johnson agrees — in response, he's written an open letter in the opinion pages of the Idaho Statesmen offering up his own burial plot to Jean Mixner. "To say that the story of Navy veteran Madelynn Taylor's fight to share a resting place in Idaho's Veterans Cemetery with her lesbian partner is disheartening would be an understatement," he begins. "Actually, the right word escapes me."
He goes on to say that he's worked beside "heterosexuals, gays, lesbians and bisexuals" in the military; to him, one's sexual preference is irrelevant "as long as there's no harm done." Unfortunately, he writes, "harm is often done, though, to people like Madelynn, and then I do care." He continues:
"Madelynn Taylor... 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. (I don't know whether it is possible to donate my plot, but I am quite sincere about my willingness to do so.)"
In closing, he argues that "Madelynn and Jean and others like them [deserve] a break" and that the Idaho government's insistence on making their lives harder is "just irritating as hell and disrespectful to boot." I think I have something in my eye (ok, fine; it's several tears).
Madelynn says that, in the event of her own death, she's arranged for a guardian to continue fighting for her right to be buried with her wife. Hopefully, her mind will be put at ease before then.
Image via KBOI2.com.