A 74-year-old Navy veteran has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Idaho after its military cemetery, citing the state's same-sex marriage ban, refused her request to someday be buried alongside her wife.
Madelynn Lee Taylor, who served from 1958 to 1964, joined forces with the National Center for Lesbian Rights to file the lawsuit against Idaho Division of Veterans Services administrator David E. Brasuell on Monday.
Idaho's strict ban -- which bars recognition of any union between same-sex couples that resembles a marriage -- was struck down by a federal judge on May 13. But the law remains in effect as officials appeal for a resolution by the nation's higher courts.
This means Taylor's legal 2008 marriage to Jean Francis Mixner in California remains unrecognized. The ashes of Mixner, who died in April 2012, can't be interred with Taylor at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery when Taylor dies.
“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 Monday. “I could be buried here alone, but I don’t want to be alone. I want Jean with me forever.” (The Los Angeles Times profiled Taylor back in May.)
A spokeswoman for the Idaho Division of Veterans Services, which runs the veteran's cemetery, said she could not comment on the pending lawsuit, but released the following statement.
“According to Idaho statute and rules, the veterans' cemetery requires a valid marriage certificate in order for a spouse to buried with a veteran," the statement said. "In 2006, the voters determined that marriage in Idaho should be defined as between a man and a woman by approving an amendment to our constitution.
"Idaho’s constitution and statutes therefore do not recognize same-sex marriage or same sex marriages entered into in another state. Until the matter is finally resolved by the United States Supreme Court, we are not able to make any further comment.”
In a statement, Boise attorney Deborah A. Ferguson, who is representing Taylor, said "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."
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments over Idaho's same-sex marriage ban in September, according to the same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry.
Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, a Republican, has vowed to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban in court.
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