Madelynn Taylor, a 74-year-old, retired veteran of the United States Navy, learned last week that she and her deceased wife will not be buried next to each other in Idaho’s Veterans Cemetery.
“I’m not surprised. I’ve been discriminated against for 70 years, and they might as well discriminate against me in death as well as in life,” she said.
Taylor was discharged from the Nave after coming out as gay in 1964. She met her wife, Jean Mixner, in 1995, and the pair legally married in California in 2008, during the brief window of time before Proposition 8 passed. Since Mixner passed away in 2012, Taylor has kept her ashes at home.
Though veteran same-sex couples can be—and have been—buried together in national cemeteries since the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the state of Idaho, which owns this particular cemetery, claims it is bound by state law to refuse the couple since Idaho does not recognize gay marriage.
Enter retired United States Army Colonel Barry Johnson. In an open letter on the opinion pages of the Boise newspaper, the Idaho Statesmen, Johnson offers up his own burial plot to Mixner, in part saying:
I honestly couldn’t care less if somebody is gay, or “straight” for that matter, just as I couldn’t care less about somebody’s anti-LGBT views. People seem to want you to be uptight one way or another about it, and I am content to simply respect somebody’s differences without a lot of fuss, as long as there’s no harm done.
Unfortunately, harm often is done, though, to people like Madelynn, and then I do care.
I’ll tell you what. I will donate the plot I earned in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to you and Jean. I am happy to give my fellow veteran that small peace of mind. And I do it to honor all the great Americans I’ve served with along the way—gay, straight, whatever.
Give Madelynn and Jean, and others like them a break. Stop finding reasons to make life—and in this case, death—harder than it needs to be.
That’s just irritating as hell and disrespectful to boot.
It has not yet been confirmed whether or not Johnson will be able to donate his plot, but he states clearly in his letter a sincere willingness to do so.