“Add the Words” protesters returned to the Idaho state Capitol today, where roughly 180 were arrested during the course of this year’s legislative session pressing unsuccessfully for a hearing on legislation to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act, to ban discrimination on those grounds. Today, the peaceful protesters carried a personal message: That of Madelynn Lee Taylor, a 74-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who’s been denied her request to be buried with her same-sex spouse at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.
The protesters, most wearing “Add the 4 Words”-emblazoned shirts, carried signs with such messages as, “Gov. Otter, choose compassion over politics” and “Gov. Otter, let Lee and Jean rest together.” They held small cutout hearts in front of their mouths during the silent protest, in which they marched from the Lincoln statue on Capitol Boulevard to the hallway outside the governor’s office. Some carried photocopied pictures of the two women.
Ty Carson, an Idaho Army National Guard veteran who served from 1990 to 1999, brought along her late father’s American flag; he was a veteran who served in Vietnam. “He was a gay man,” Carson said. “My father had to live in the closet.” Carson said, “I think the governor needs to take a compassionate stand. … Lee should be allowed to be buried next to her partner.”
Taylor wasn’t at the demonstration, as she was en route to a V.A. hospital in Seattle for a serious operation. Judy Cross, a friend and fellow deacon with Taylor at Liberating Spirit Metropolitan Community Church, said, “She’s got a good prognosis, but they can’t do it here.” Cross is also president of the Idaho Interfaith Alliance.
Taylor’s wife, Jean Mixner, died about a year and a half ago; the two were married in California in 2008. Taylor has kept her ashes in her closet while she fights with the state over burial. She recently told the Associated Press, “I don’t see where the ashes of a couple old lesbians is going to hurt anyone.”
Cross said, “They’re just a magnificent couple who loved each other absolutely dearly and were soul mates.” Taylor served in the Navy from 1958 to 1964, when she was discharged for being gay; she later petitioned and had her discharge revised to an honorable one.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said in a statement, “The veteran’s cemetery rules require a valid marriage certificate in order for a spouse to be buried with a veteran. Idaho’s Constitution does not recognize same-sex marriage. The voters spoke in 2006 by passing an amendment to our Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman. I am defending their decision and the Idaho Constitution in federal court, so I’m not going to comment any further.”
Idaho is currently being sued in federal court by four same-sex couples, challenging that ban on same-sex marriage as a violation of their constitutional rights. Idaho’s ban also forbids any form of civil union or domestic partnership for same-sex partners.