BOISE -- A 74-year-old Navy veteran says she wants her partner buried with her in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. Officials say the couple can't be buried together because same-sex marriages aren't recognized in Idaho.
Madelynn Taylor served six years in the Navy from 1958 to 1964. She says her whole family was in the military. "It's what we did. When we were 18, you picked a service and joined."
She met her late wife Jean Mixner years ago. They got married at a church retreat in Oregon in 1995, and formally in a California courthouse around six years ago.
Mixner passed away in 2012, and last year, Taylor went to the Veterans Cemetery to apply to be buried there with her wife when she passes away. She took the required documents: Discharge documents and a marriage certificate.
"I thought they'd say okay because in any federal cemetery it is okay, in any national cemetery," Taylor said. "I could take the same documents and get buried in Arlington if I needed to, with no problems. But here they said it's a state veterans cemetery, not a national cemetery. So we have to go by the state laws. So, we gotta change the state laws."
Idaho Division of Veterans Services Deputy Administrator Tamara Mackenthun told KTVB, "We have to follow the state law, and the state law, you know well."
The Idaho State Constitution says, "A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."
Because of that language, Mackenthun says the Division cannot recognize a same-sex marriage for burial rights in the state cemetery. Under the state's administrative code, a spouse of a service member would have to show a "valid record of marriage."
Mackenthun is aware of a case in Washington where a woman was buried with her wife, but she says the difference is that cemetery is a national cemetery, not a state cemetery. She says the denial of burial to same-sex spouses in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery has nothing to do with any personal feelings.
"We have to follow the law," she said. "We have to follow the Idaho definition of spouse."
Taylor says she doesn't take the denial personally. She understands the laws written in Idaho, so instead of arguing what's written down now, she wants to work to change the Idaho State Constitution.
"Normally I stammer and stutter myself. I'm not a public speaker," Taylor said. "I'm a background person. I work in the background. What's changed is I got mad at the cemetery, and decided it's time to do something about it."
Someone told her about Add the Words campaign, and she hopped on board, and says she's been arrested twice. She hopes that the campaign sparks more pushes for change in Idaho's laws.
While Taylor says the couple could be buried together in another veterans cemetery, she says as a longtime Idaho resident with brothers and sisters here, she doesn't want to settle. She wants to be in Idaho's Veterans Cemetery, with Mixner.
"I just feel that it's the right place for me. You know, I'm a veteran. So they should let me... in fact they would let me alone, be in that crypt," Taylor said. "But I don't want to alone. I want Jean with me."
Taylor currently keeps Mixner's ashes on top of her closet. She says the boxes are smaller than the space allotted for cremains.
"Two of them will fit in there easily. If they're going to put me in there, they might as well slide in a second box. It doesn't cost them anything more. In fact, they make money because they charge for your spouse to be buried with you," Taylor said.
If Taylor dies without being accepted into the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery along with Mixner, she says someone will keep the couple's ashes together until they are allowed to be buried in that cemetery.
"Eventually I'm going to be there. It'll happen. They might as well give up and let us go now," Taylor said.
Mackenthun says they have had some casual requests for same-sex couple burials, but she couldn't recall any formal requests, and was unsure Taylor filled out a formal request after being turned away.