An Idaho veteran last week was told that her now-deceased wife wouldn’t be buried next to her in a veteran’s cemetery. But now a fellow veteran is offering up his spot in the Idaho Veterans Cemetery in the hopes that the couple will be able to rest beside each other for eternity.
Madelynn Taylor, 74, is a retired veteran of the U.S. Navy, serving for six years just prior to the start of the Vietnam War. She also happens to be a lesbian, who was discharged when she and another servicewoman told her superiors she was gay. Taylor fell in love with Jean Mixner in 1995. They married soon thereafter, though few states recognized their union at the time. When her partner died in 2012, Taylor began planning for her own death, asking the Idaho Veterans Cemetery to reserve a spot for herself as well as the ashes of her spouse. They denied Taylor’s request.
“I’m not surprised,” Taylor told Boise’s KBOI 2News last week. “I’ve been discriminated against for 70 years, and they might as well discriminate against me in death as well as life.” The cemetery has defended their decision, as the Idaho state constitution still recognizes marriage as being between one man and one woman.
But now a fellow veteran is stepping up and offering a chance for Taylor and Mixner to reside beside each other forever. U.S. Army Col. Barry Johnson (ret.) wrote in an open letter to the Idaho Statesman that he believes that Taylor had served her country and deserves the same rights as everyone else.
“I’ll tell you what,” Johnson wrote. “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.”
“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,” Johnson wrote. “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.”
A 27-year veteran, Johnson continued that he’s worked alongside all sexual orientations and it never truly mattered, arguing “everybody more or less knew who is who regardless, and I don’t recall anybody in the military ever saying a thing about it. Never.”
Johnson admit that he isn’t sure whether the offer he’s made will be recognized by the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery and Taylor hasn’t been reached for comment on Johnson’s offer yet. But now there’s a chance that Taylor and Minxer can have the eternity they deserve. “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,” Johnson concluded. “That’s just irritating as hell and disrespectful to boot.”
An earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to Barry Johnson repeatedly as “Barry” rather than “Johnson.” This has since been corrected.