A lesbian widow in Idaho is suing the state to grant her burial rights in a veterans’ cemetery where her late spouse’s ashes have already been laid to rest.
Madelynn Lee Taylor, a 74-year-old military veteran who served in the Navy from 1958 to 1964, filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging Idaho state laws prohibiting her from being buried in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery with her late wife, Jean Mixner.
“Idaho is where some of our best memories together are and it’s where I want to spend eternity with Jean,” Taylor said in a statement. “I could be buried here alone, but I don’t want to be alone. I want Jean with me forever.”
Last year, Taylor attempted to make advance arrangements to have her ashes interred along with those of her spouse in a granite columbarium in the state veterans cemetery, which veterans and with different-sex spouses are permitted to do. Although Mixner and Taylor were married in California in 2008, cemetery employees denied her request because Idaho state law prohibits recognition of their marriage.
The 15-page complaint, filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights along Boise-based attorneys Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham, argues Idaho laws barring recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages violate the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.
In a statement, Ferguson said Idaho’s refusal to recognize the marriage between Taylor and Mixner is “inexcusable.”
“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,” Ferguson said. “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.”
A federal court in Idaho has already ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. However, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has placed a stay on the ruling following an appeal from Idaho Governor Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Arguments in the case are set for September 8.