Vet sues after burial with gay partner is denied

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 8, 2014 at 6:30 am •  Published: July 8, 2014
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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A U.S. Navy veteran filed a civil rights lawsuit Monday after the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery refused to allow her to be buried with the ashes of her late wife.

Seventy-four-year-old Madelynn Taylor filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boise after she tried to make advance arrangements last year to have her ashes interred with Jean Mixner, whom she met on a blind date in 1995 and married in California in 2008 when gay marriage was briefly legal.

Though federal veterans cemeteries allow the spouses of gay veterans to be interred with their loved ones, Taylor said she was surprised to find the Idaho cemetery — which is owned and operated by the state — does not.

Taylor's situation is "among the most extreme examples of the harm caused by state laws that deny respect to the marriages of same-sex couples," said Christopher Stoll, a senior attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing Taylor. "Denying these important protections to committed couples is not simply unjust, it is needlessly cruel."

Todd Dvorak, a spokesman for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, said Wasden hasn't reviewed the lawsuit and couldn't comment on the case. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's spokesman Jon Hanian also declined to comment.

Taylor's lawsuit contends that Idaho's anti-recognition laws violate the due process and equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution, and that Idaho's refusal to recognize her marriage tells the world that her relationship is unworthy of recognition.

Taylor wants a judge to order the cemetery to allow her ashes to be interred in a memorial wall along with those of Mixner, who died in 2012.

The case was filed as Taylor's health is deteriorating. She has serious heart and lung problems and uses a cane, walker or scooter to get around. She laughs easily at her predicament, though, joking that she expects to win the case before she has the heart attack that "could happen any day now."

Her ready laughter may have been what attracted Mixner when the two met on a blind date in 1995.