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Taylor v. Brasuell

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 9, 2015

DAVID E. BRASUELL, as Administrator of the Idaho Division of Veterans Services, in his official capacity, Defendant.


RONALD E. BUSH, Magistrate Judge.

Now pending before the Court are (1) Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 18), and (2) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 19). Having carefully considered the record and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order:


1. Plaintiff Madelynn Lee Taylor is a 74 year-old veteran of the United States Navy. See Am. Compl., ¶ 2 (Docket No. 13).

2. In 1995, Ms. Taylor married Jean Mixner in a religious (but not legally binding) ceremony in Oregon. See id. at ¶ 11. In 2008, Ms. Taylor and Ms. Mixner legally married in California. See id. at ¶ 13; see also Ex. A to Am. Compl. (Docket No. 13, Att. 1).

3. In 2012, Ms. Mixner passed away. See Am. Compl., ¶ 13 (Docket No. 13).

4. In December 2013, Ms. Taylor drove to the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise, Idaho to make arrangements to have her own ashes interred with Ms. Mixner's ashes in a granite columbarium there. See id. at ¶¶ 4 & 14. According to Ms. Taylor, "[v]eterans are permitted to be buried or interred in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery along with their spouses, and the Cemetery routinely allows such burial or interment for opposite-sex married couples." See id.

5. On May 12, 2014, Ms. Taylor submitted an "Application for Pre-Registration" ("Application") to the Idaho Division of Veterans Services ("Veterans Services"). See Ex. C to Am. Compl. (Docket No. 13, Att. 3). The Application requested the "pre-registration" of both Ms. Taylor (as a veteran) and Ms. Mixner (as Ms. Taylor's deceased spouse), with cremation listed as the "interment type." See id.

6. On June 4, 2014, Veterans Services granted, in part, and denied, in part, Ms. Taylor's Application. James Earp, Director of the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery, sent a letter to Ms. Taylor in which he said:

Thank you very much for your Pre-registration Application for interment at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. We are pleased to inform you that you meet the eligibility requirements for interment in the Cemetery. The application for interment you submitted is hereby approved, in part, as it relates to interment benefits for yourself
Your application, however, is denied in part as it relates to interment of the individual you listed in the spousal pre-registration section, Ms. Jean Francis Mixner. Your application indicates that both you and Ms. Mixner are female. In accordance with administrative rules governing the Cemetery, a pre-registration application for interment of the spouse of an eligible veteran must be accompanied by a valid record (certificate) of marriage between an individual and the veteran. Although your application is accompanied by a certificate of marriage to Ms. Mixner issued by the State of California, Idaho law does not permit the Cemetery to recognize such as valid. Specifically, the Idaho Constitution at Article III, Section 28 provides that "[a] marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state." Similarly, the Cemetery is limited by section 32-209, Idaho Code which indicates that same-sex marriages entered into under the law of another state violate the public policy in Idaho and are not valid in Idaho. The Cemetery is required to comply with current Idaho law; and accordingly, unable to provide interment benefits to Ms. Mixner at this time.
The Cemetery is aware that legal proceedings are currently pending which address the validity of Idaho's laws regarding what constitutes a valid marriage in the state.[2] The outcome of such proceedings may directly affect the eligibility for benefits of Ms. Mixner and alter our determination of your application as indicated above as it relates to her. If that occurs, the Cemetery will reprocess your application for benefits as it relates to Ms. Mixner - you need not provide us with a new application at that time. As soon as any legal proceedings involving that matter are finally and sufficiently concluded, the Cemetery will notify you of any change in its decision as it relates to interment benefits for Ms. Mixner.
As it relates to your own eligibility for interment in the Cemetery, please be advised of the information that follows. As you know, pre-registration allows Veterans to establish in advance, their eligibility for interment and is intended to simplify and assist the next-of-kin at the time of death. Therefore, please note that this confirmation of your eligibility does not constitute a contractual agreement obligating you to interment in the Cemetery, nor does it reserve a specific site. In addition, pre-registration is not intended to override decisions made as a result of subsequent estate planning, authorization given to next-of-kin, or various contractual agreements addressing interment. If you have any questions, please feel free to call the Cemetery Office at (208) 780-1340.
Thank you for your interest in the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. We are grateful for your support and most appreciative that we are able to pay tribute to our Veterans by providing a final resting place of honor.

Ex. D to Am. Compl. (Docket No. 13, Att. 4).

7. On July 7, 2014, Ms. Taylor filed this lawsuit, later amending her pleading on September 11, 2014. See Compl. (Docket No. 1); Am. Compl. (Docket No. 13). Through her Amended Complaint, Ms. Taylor "request[ed] that the Court issue an injunction directing Defendant David E. Brasuell, as Administrator of [Veterans Services], in his official capacity, approve her Application for Pre-Registration to be interred along with her deceased ...

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