It's very important for many people to know that they will be buried next to the person they loved, the person they married. How many married couples do you know who buy adjacent burial plots for this very reason. My parents did. I suspect many of your parents also chose to be buried next to one another. How would you feel if you were told that you could not be buried next to your spouse because the state did not recognized your marriage?
So imagine the distress of Madelynn Taylor, a veteran of the US Navy who was told that she and her spouse, a woman she married outside her home state of Idaho who died in 2012, would be denied burial in the Idaho State Veteran's Cemetery because they did not have an official Idaho marriage license. Idaho does not permit same sex marriage. In effect, the state was telling her that, despite honorably serving her country, they would not recognize her marriage nor allow the ashes of her beloved spouse to be interred with her in a cemetery officially designated for veterans of the US Armed Forces. Apparently, some veterans are more equal than others in the eyes of the state of Idaho.
One person who heard about this injustice was a retired fellow veteran by the name of Barry Johnson. He served for 27 years and retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of Colonel. On Wednesday, his letter to the editor of the Idaho Statesman was published and here is what he offered her in his letter:
Then we have Madelynn Taylor, who seems like one heck of a lady. She cared for another person with all her heart and had to watch that person die. She is a veteran. She loves her country. She wants her partner by her side and she wants to eternally rest among veterans in the state she made home.
Madelynn, you deserve that.
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.)
I encourage you to read the entire letter. Col Johnson writes from the heart and makes many valid points about the right of all people straight or gay, to enjoy the same benefits as every other American. He flat out says that he knew he served with many LGBT people in the military and that it simply did not matter to him or to many of his fellow members of the armed forces who their fellow soldiers, sailors and airmen chose to love. As he states rather eloquently, that when the "official" policy changed to allow LGBT people to serve openly in the military it was a bigger deal in the media than among his comrades.
Unfortunately, like Colonel Johnson, I do not know if the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery will see reason and permit him to transfer his burial plot to Madelynn Taylor so that she and her deceased wife, Jean Mixner, can be buried together. Perhaps, the state of Idaho will see the error of its ways and allow a couple of people who loved one another to be buried together. Or perhaps they will continue to insist on their mean spirited, bigoted response and deny Col. Johnson the right to transfer his plot to Marylynn and Jean. Regardless, Barry Johnson's very public gesture of solidarity and support for his fellow veteran deserves our admiration and respect.
As he said at the end of his letter in the Idaho Statesmen:
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.Simple respect and dignity for all. What a concept, eh?
That's just irritating as hell and disrespectful to boot.