(Boise, ID, October 22, 2014)—A 74-year-old Navy veteran who challenged Idaho’s marriage equality ban so she could be buried with her late wife in Idaho’s state-run veterans cemetery will have her wishes respected after Idaho state officials agreed to allow the couple to be interred together.
Today, Madelynn “Lee” Taylor went to the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery to make arrangements to have both her ashes and those of her late wife, Jean Mixner, interred together at the cemetery. Idaho officials agreed to Taylor’s request following the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ (NCLR) recent victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which found that Idaho’s ban on marriage equality violated the U.S. Constitution. The court ordered marriages to begin on October 15, 2014, and directed the state to recognize the marriages of couples who married in other states.
Taylor served in the Navy from 1958 to 1964. In late 2013, Idaho officials denied Taylor’s request to be buried in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery together with her late wife, citing Idaho’s laws prohibiting marriage by same-sex couples. NCLR and Boise attorneys Deborah A. Ferguson and Craig Durham of Ferguson Durham PLLC filed a lawsuit on Taylor’s behalf, challenging the exclusion as a violation of the due process and equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.
“Words can’t describe how incredibly grateful I am for all the work that went into making our wishes possible,” said Taylor. “Idaho is where some of our best memories together are and it’s where I want to spend eternity with Jean.”
Earlier this year, NCLR, Ferguson, and Durham filed separate lawsuits on behalf of Taylor and four same-sex couples arguing that Idaho’s laws banning marriage equality violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. The Ninth Circuit heard the case brought by the four same-sex couples on September 8, 2014. On October 7, 2014, the Ninth Circuit ruled 3-0 that Idaho’s ban on the freedom to marry is unconstitutional and ordered marriages to begin on October 15, 2014.
Said NCLR Legal Director Shannon P. Minter: “Today’s decision by Idaho state officials to allow Lee and Jean to be buried together corrects a serious indignity caused by Idaho’s former ban on marriage by same-sex couples. Now that Idaho must respect all legally married couples, Lee and other same-sex spouses have the security of knowing that the state will treat their relationships equally throughout their lives and beyond.”
Said Ferguson: “Lee deserves credit for shining a powerful light on the injustice and indignity caused by Idaho’s former exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. Her persistence, visibility, and refusal to accept inequality are a model for us all.”