HRC Blog

Lesbian Veteran Sues After She Was Denied Burial with Wife

A Navy veteran in Idaho filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Boise, Idaho, after her request to have her ashes interred with her late wife was denied.  Madelynn Taylor, 74, wishes to be buried alongside her now-deceased wife, Jean Mixner, of 17 years. The couple wed in a civil ceremony in Oregon in 1995, and again, legally, in California in 2008.

While federal veterans’ cemeteries do allow the spouses of LGBT veterans to be interred together, the cemetery in Idaho is owned and operated by the state.

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed the case on behalf of Taylor.

“Denying these important protections to committed couples is not simply unjust, it is needlessly cruel,” said Christopher Stoll, a senior attorney at NCLR, in an interview.

Earlier this year, HRC President Chad Griffin called on former Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki to apply a broad interpretation of the law to ensure recognition of same-sex married couples regardless of where they live.  

In a victory last month, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it would recognize civil unions and domestic partnerships for burial benefits. This will grant the same burial benefits that married spouses of service members receive to same-sex couples.

However, the State Division of Veteran Services has refused Taylor’s application, citing the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. 

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