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Lesbian Navy veteran allowed to inter wife at Idaho cemetery

Lesbian Navy veteran allowed to inter wife at Idaho cemetery
Jean Mixner, left, and Madelynn Lee Taylor are shown at a Veterans Day celebration in Arizona. They were married in California in 2008.

On Tuesday, Madelynn Lee Taylor will finally get her wish.

That's when the Navy veteran's wife, Jean Mixner, will be interred in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in a niche that someday will hold both women's ashes. The plaque on the granite wall will read "Together Forever."

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To Taylor, 74, it seemed like a simple wish: to be buried with her longtime spouse, the love of her life, the person to whom she was wed in the eyes of the law and of her faith. And it seemed only fitting that a veteran who served her country honorably should be able to receive a military benefit available to the rest of the armed forces.

But the veterans cemetery in Idaho is run by the state. And until last week the Idaho Constitution prohibited same-sex marriage. And the only couples whose remains were welcome in the cemetery were heterosexual.

On Oct. 15, after months of legal wrangling, court hearings, decisions, appeals and more decisions, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling striking down the Gem State ban on same-sex marriage became final.

"As soon as the 9th Circuit ruling became final, [the cemetery] let Madelynn know she can fill out the paperwork and be buried with her spouse," said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which sued the state to overturn the ban and, separately, to allow Taylor and Mixner to be buried together.

"It is just really moving to see states like Idaho that have been not welcoming of same-sex couples to be treating her now with the dignity and respect she deserves," Minter said.

Taylor never wanted anything more. And on Wednesday, she trooped down to the cemetery office in Boise and completed the process she began late last year.

Surrounded by friends and escorted by her pastor, the Rev. Renee McCall of Liberating Spirit Metropolitan Community Church, Taylor filled out the paperwork and ordered the plaque that will bear her name and Mixner's.

"It took forever it seemed like," Taylor told the Los Angeles Times after the official steps had been taken. "I had to put my name down about six times on the paperwork."

On this day, Taylor said, she felt "relief, happiness."

"I keep thinking of Jean, and she's dancing up there in heaven," she said.

Twitter: @marialaganga

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