Oregon woman Nancy Lynchild has become the first same-sex spouse of a US veteran to be approved for burial in a US national military cemetery.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Linda Campbell petitioned the US Department of Veterans Affairs with help from officials in their home state of Oregon following Lynchild’s death.
‘My commitment to our country, shown through the service that makes me eligible for burial at Willamette [National Cemetery], and the significance of the permanent, lifelong commitment I shared with Nancy, should be sufficient to secure a waiver for her and allow us to be buried together,’ Campbell wrote to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs in January.
In 2008 the US National Cemetery Association under the then Bush Administration issued a directive formally barring same-sex spouses from being buried in military cemeteries along with their veteran partners in line with the Defense of Marriage Act barring federal recognition of same-sex couples.
However that law is currently being challenged in the US Supreme Court and the Obama Administration has refused to defend the law.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki decided to grant Campbell’s petition but the decision does not constitute an official change in policy and further applications for a waiver will be decided case-by-case.
A statement by the Department of Veterans Affairs said that the decision did not recognize the couple’s marital status but merely evidence of a ‘committed relationship between the individual and the veteran.’
Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian wrote to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the White House on behalf of Campbell, noting that Oregon state law required equal access to goods and services for registered domestic partners.
The White House replied that it would allow the Department of Domestic Affairs to decide the matter for itself.
Avakian told Fox News that the decision was an important precedent.
‘I don't think there's any way to get around the fact that is a precedent-setting strong message,’ Avakian said.
‘I'm deeply grateful they spent the time thinking this through carefully and coming to the right conclusion.’