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Idaho Bravely Fights Postmortem Gayness In Military Cemetery
Just how totally opposed to gay marriage is the Great State of Idaho? How about this: It's so clear on the sanctity of marriage that it won't permit a U.S. Navy Veteran to be interred with her wife in the state-run military cemetery in Boise. Wouldn't want to send the wrong message about what constitutes a family, even in death. Now that a federal court has thrown out the state's constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, it's possible that Madelynn Lee Taylor, 74, will actually get to have her ashes interred next to those of her wife, Jean Mixner, who died in 2012. Maybe. Or maybe the traditional family will be irreparably damaged by two urns of ashes sitting next to each other -- after all, marriage is for making babies, and cremated gay people can't do that.
The LA Times explains what happened when Taylor walked into the office of the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to sign up for a "niche in the columbarium" (which we guess is what they're calling it these days) next to Mixner, whom Taylor had married in California in 2008:
But the seven words she uttered after "I need paperwork to fill out for reservations" rendered the spare earth-tone lobby momentarily silent. "This," she said, "is for me and my wife."
The clerk summoned her supervisor. Apologies all around. The military cemetery is run by the state, they told Taylor, and Idaho's Constitution bans same-sex marriage. We must, they said, follow state law.
Taylor turned around. Walked back out. And began to boil.
The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, all right -- and it's helped along by decent people like Madelynn Taylor who've been set to boiling by idiocy like this. For now, Taylor keeps Mixner's ashes in her closet, until she can be sure she can be put to rest next to her wife.
Taylor served in the Navy from 1958 to 1961; shortly after she signed up for a second tour of duty, she was outed by another woman and given the choice of a court-martial or a dishonorable discharge; she opted for the latter. In 1979, after a policy change, she was able to have her discharge status converted to "honorable," entitling her to full military benefits. Taylor and Mixner met in 1995 and had a commitment ceremony in 1996; then in 2008, just three weeks before Proposition 8 was passed, they got married in California. Mixner died of emphysema in 2012.
"Jean and I had promised each other we'd be buried together," Taylor said. "If there's a next life, we're going to arrange to be next-door neighbors from the age of 2. It's a special request to the Boss."
And Taylor had pretty much assumed that arranging to share a niche wouldn't be a problem -- after all, following the end of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," the federal government had started allowing vets and their same-sex spouses to be buried next to each other in veterans' cemeteries. Only problem is that Idaho's Veterans' Cemetery is run by the state, and so state law applies. No same-sex ashy sexxytime for You People, lest the children be corrupted.
Since the story broke, another Idaho veteran has offered to donate his reserved niche at the cemetery to Taylor; unfortunately, the problem isn't the acquisition of a place -- it's permission to inter ashes of someone whose marriage isn't recognized by the state.
At least Taylor appreciates the idiocy of the law:
"I really couldn't see how the ashes of two old lesbians were going to hurt anybody," she said. "The crypt is 20 inches deep. I'm going to take up just the front half of it, for heaven's sake. And I've got to pay $700 for her to take up the back half."
Taylor burst into a wheezy laugh when asked what she and Mixner could possibly do from deep within the columbarium walls. She paused. Laughed again. "Recruit!"
Since her request was turned down, Taylor has become an activist not only for her own case, but also for adding gay Idahoans to the state's human rights law, and has been arrested at demonstrations at the state Capitol.
Here's hoping that the federal court ruling stands, that Taylor can get the burial she wants, and that if there is an afterlife, Taylor and Mixner enjoy their toaster oven.
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. He's not too big on this "afterlife" stuff, but for fuck's sake, Idaho.