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Idaho Veteran Denied Burial With Same-Sex Spouse

Madelynn Taylor outside the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.
Madelynn Taylor outside the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.

This month, Oregonians expect to hear a federal ruling on the state’s same-sex marriage ban, but just across the border, Idahoans are a part of a very different climate.

U.S. Navy veteran Madelynn Taylor has made national headlines after Boise Weekly reported Idaho officials denied her request to be buried with her late same-sex partner Jean Maxiner in the state’s veterans cemetery. Taylor's request was denied because the Idaho 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."

“The voters spoke in 2006 by passing an amendment to our Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman,” Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said in a statement. “I am defending their decision and the Idaho Constitution in federal court, so I’m not going to comment any further.”

Taylor’s story has rippled through the state and now the country. Another Idaho veteran, Barry Johnson, wrote a letter to the editor, published in the Idaho Statesman this week:

“Then we have Madelynn Taylor, who seems like one heck of a lady. She cared for another person with all her heart and had to watch that person die. She is a veteran. She loves her country. She wants her partner by her side and she wants to eternally rest among veterans in the state she made home. Madelynn, you deserve that.”

Johnson went on to write he would donate the plot he earned in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to Taylor and Maxiner, although Johnson admits he doesn’t know if he can actually do this.

Taylor's story is similar to that of Oregon veteran Linda Campbell, who was granted permission in March 2013 to use the word “spouse” on her same-sex partner’s headstone at Willamette National Cemetery. The decision, made by the U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs, set a precedent for other federal cemeteries.

Still, Idaho officials aren't budging on the issue.

"Regardless of what our personal feelings might be in this matter, we have to honor, foremost, the state constitution," Tamara Mackenthun, deputy administrator at the Idaho Division of Veterans Services told Boise Weekly.

Copyright 2014 Oregon Public Broadcasting