STAFF REPORTS | BOISE, Idaho — A 74-year-old Navy veteran wants her deceased wife buried with her in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery, but state officials have denied her request because Idaho doesn't recognize her same-sex marriage including Idaho's Republican Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter who told reporters, "I'm not going to comment any further," citing the state's current $1 million legal battle to defend its same-sex marriage ban.
That response didn't sit well with Barry Johnson, a retired U.S. Army colonel and resident of Potlatch, who wrote an open letter in the state's largest newspaper offering his burial plot to Madelynn Taylor, who says she went to the Veterans Cemetery to apply to be buried there with her wife when she passes away, taking the required discharge documents and a marriage certificate with her, but was told that couldn't happen.
“I thought they'd say okay because in any federal cemetery it is okay, in any national cemetery,” Taylor said. “I could take the same documents and get buried in Arlington if I needed to, with no problems. But here they said it’s a state veterans cemetery, not a national cemetery. So we have to go by the state laws.”
Johnson expressed his outrage writing;
[...] "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." he added. " It also seems to me that relationships can be awfully difficult no matter who you choose to be in one with. So if you find one that works … well, good for you. My hat is off to you."
Taylor and her late wife Jean Mixner married at a church retreat in Oregon in 1995, and formally in a California courthouse six years ago.
Taylor, who served six years in the Navy from 1958 to 1964, says that while she could be buried together in another veterans cemetery, she says as a longtime Idaho resident with brothers and sisters here, she doesn't want that option. She wants to be in Idaho’s Veterans Cemetery, with her wife by her side.
Johnson pointed out that in his eyes, a person's sexual orientation shouldn't be at issue;
"As a lifelong Idahoan and a 27-year Army veteran of two wars, I've worked beside heterosexuals, gays, lesbians and bisexuals. I've really never wanted to hear about anyone's sex life or sexual preferences, one way or another. Besides, 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."
He then went on to offer his own burial space for the couple
"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. (I don't know whether it is possible to donate my plot, but I am quite sincere about my willingness to do so.)
Like Madelynn, I love this state and I respect the views of all my neighbors, whether I agree with those views or not. At least having those differences makes for interesting conversations. But let's not pick on people who aren't hurting anybody and simply minding their own business."