Imagine that your spouse is dead. You spent 17 years of your lives together, caring for and loving each other. Now her ashes are in a box in your closet. It is your wish that when you die, her ashes will be interred alongside you in your state’s veterans cemetery because you are a veteran and she is your spouse. Sounds like pretty standard end-of-life planning, doesn’t it?
Ah, yes. But there’s a catch. The thing is, you are a woman. And that complicates things.
This is, unfortunately, the situation 74-year-old Madelynn Taylor finds herself in after the Idaho Division of Veterans Services refused her request to be buried with her late spouse, Jean Mixner, because Idaho doesn’t recognize their marriage.
In 2006, Idaho voters passed Amendment 2, which reads, “A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”
And thank heavens voters added that to the state’s constitution, otherwise Idaho’s dead veterans might have to face the injustice of two dead lesbians fouling up their cemetery.
Granted, Taylor could just go be buried someplace else. It’s not like the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery is her only option. Except for the fact that Taylor is an Idaho veteran who wants to be buried there.
“I just feel that it’s the right place for me. You know, I’m a veteran. So they should let me,” Taylor told KTVB. “In fact, they would let me alone, be in that crypt … But I don’t want to be alone. I want Jean with me.”
(I’ll pause here so you can get some tissues.)
To add insult to injury, Taylor served in the Navy from 1958-64. Coming as she does from a military family (“It’s what we did. When we were 18, you picked a service and joined,” she told KTVB), she likely would have served for longer had they not kicked her out for — you guessed it — being gay.
Taylor told KBOI that she wasn’t surprised by the state’s refusal.
“I’ve been discriminated against for 70 years, and they might as well discriminate against me in death as well as life.”
Make no mistake, she doesn’t really mean the “might as well” part. Despite her friendly disposition in her TV news interviews, she’s fighting back. She’s joined the Add the Words campaign, which seeks to get “sexual orientation and gender identity” added to Idaho’s nondiscrimination law. Hopefully, too, Idaho’s anti-gay marriage amendment will be overturned like so many others across the country have been.
What Taylor is asking for is hardly extravagant. Her partner was cremated. She wants to be cremated. Which means that burying them together is logistically very easy. It’s not like the cemetery has to dig two 6-foot holes in the ground. All they have to do is put two containers in one drawer. Something they do for opposite-sex spouses all the time.
“It’s not taking up any more space to have both of us in there,” she told KBOI. “And I don’t see where the ashes of a couple old lesbians is going to hurt anybody.”
According to news reports, Taylor, who has health problems and worries she might die before this injustice is righted, plans to have someone hang on to both her and her wife’s ashes until they can rest, together, in peace.
D’Anne Witkowski has been gay for pay since 2003. She’s a freelance writer and poet (believe it!). When she’s not taking on the creeps of the world, she reviews rock ’n’ roll shows in Detroit with her twin sister.