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Retired colonel offers cemetery plot to lesbian vet denied burial site for spouse

Thursday, May 1, 2014
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BOISE, Idaho — A retired U.S. Army colonel on Wednesday offered his burial plot in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to a lesbian veteran who has been told by the state that she and her deceased wife cannot be interred together because of Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Jean Mixner and Madelynn Taylor.

Jean Mixner and Madelynn Taylor.

Madelynn Taylor, a 74-year-old Navy veteran and longtime Idaho resident, says state officials have denied her request to bury her wife by her side because Idaho doesn’t recognize her same-sex marriage.

Taylor, who served six years in the Navy from 1958 to 1964, married Jean Mixner married at a church retreat in Oregon in 1995, and formally in a California courthouse six years ago. Mixner died in 2012, and when Taylor dies, she wants their ashes interred together in the veterans cemetary.

But the state’s refusal to grant Taylor’s request didn’t sit well with Barry Johnson, a retired U.S. Army colonel.

Johnson wrote an open letter, published Wednesday in the Idaho Statesman, offering his burial plot to Taylor:

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. Actually, the right word escapes me. I suppose I’m just tired of all the hoo-hah over something this ridiculous.

I honestly couldn’t care less if somebody is gay, or “straight” for that matter, just as I couldn’t care less about somebody’s anti-LGBT views. People seem to want you to be uptight one way or another about it, and I am content to simply respect somebody’s differences without a lot of fuss as long as there’s no harm done.

Unfortunately, harm often is done, though, to people like Madelynn, and then I do care.

[...] 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.)

Taylor says she could be buried in any federal or national cemetery, but that her family has spent their lives in Idaho, and she doesn’t want to leave, not even in death.

It was not immediately clear if the cemetery would allow Johnson to transfer his burial plot to Taylor, or if she would even accept his offer. The Idaho Division of Veterans Services said the cemetery’s policy remains unchanged.

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