U.S. House Republicans Continue to Deny Benefits to Gay Veterans, Including Idaho's Madelynn Taylor

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Madelynn Taylor, 74, sits outside of the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery - LAURIE PEARMAN
  • Laurie Pearman
  • Madelynn Taylor, 74, sits outside of the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery

Congressional Republicans have struck at the heart of an issue with deep Idaho ramifications: equal benefits to all veterans.

Boise Weekly readers first met U.S. Navy veteran Madelynn Taylor in April. Our story caught regional, national and even international attention—telling the story of how Taylor's request to be interred at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery had been rejected.

After being turned down verbally and in writing, the 74-year-old Taylor, whose wife Jean died two years ago (the two were legally married in California in 2008), decided in July to take her fight to court, filing a lawsuit against the the State of Idaho, arguing that her Constitutional rights had been violated.

Idaho won't recognize Taylor's marriage and therefore wouldn't pre-accept her burial application, asking that she and her late spouse's ashes be interred together at the state cemetery.

And on Wednesday, the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs voted 13-12 to continue denying equal benefits to gay veterans who happen to live in states that don't recognize same-sex unions.

Every Democrat on the committee supported the bill, but only one Republican, New Jersey Rep. Jon Runyan, broke ranks to join the minority.

"It's inexcusable that the State of Idaho refuses to honor the wishes of a veteran of our armed forces to be buried together with her spouse," said Boise-based attorney Deborah Ferguson. "The state's disrespect for a veteran's honorable service to our country is one of the clearest examples of the harm and indignity that Idaho's discriminatory marriage laws inflict on same-sex couples through the state. The state's treatment of Ms. Taylor and her late wife violates the most basic principles of equality and respect for human dignity enshrined in our Constitution."

Durham, Ferguson and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have teamed together to defend Taylor.