Here is a feel-good story for your Friday, in case you need a reminder that most people are, at heart, good, and that regular people do incredible things for each other all the time. An Idaho veteran who happens to be a lesbian was told that her longtime partner, now deceased, would not be eligible to be buried alongside her in a veteran’s cemetery, citing Idaho’s marriage laws:
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.”
But another veteran has stepped up and offered his own burial plot in hopes that the couple can be buried next to each other:
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.”
Whether Johnson’s letter will do any official good is an open question, but the fact that he was willing to stand up for a fellow veteran and fellow human being this way is admirable. So very often, as Wayne and I discussed on the phone a little while ago, our religious right opponents seem to relish in every opportunity to kick LGBT people when they’re down. It’s not enough to deny us equality — no, they’d rather ice that cake by making things as miserable as they can, as in this instance, where a loving, committed couple is being dishonored and, as Taylor said, is being discriminated against even in death.
Johnson describes the situation with words so brilliant they ought to be tagged to every Bryan Fischer, every Porno Pete, and every Tony Perkins out there:
“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.”
Sir, you have just described the politicized religious right in ten words or less.