Since the ending of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military has gotten marginally more LGBTQ-friendly. But the lack of marriage equality in our country still puts same-sex couples at a disadvantage, even couples who have bravely and honorably served our country. If a couple can’t get married, it’s a lot more difficult for them to get the benefits normally afforded to military families.
That’s why the announcement that the first same-sex partner will be allowed burial in a veteran’s cemetery is such exciting news. It’s not a huge step, but it signals progress for these deserving families.
Retired Lt. Col. Linda Campbell lost her partner Nancy Lynchild to metastatic cancer in December. Campbell filed a request with the Veterans Affairs Office, asking that Lynchild be buried in Williamette National Cemetery, where her parents are also buried. And thankfully, Campbell’s request was approved.
“I am deeply grateful to my country for honoring and respecting my years of service and my relationship with Nancy, the love of my life,” the veteran commented after hearing the news. “Willamette National Cemetery is a beautiful, peaceful place. Knowing that Nancy and I can join my parents on that hallowed ground is a source of great comfort and healing.”
While this might be the first same-sex couple to be buried in a national cemetery, that doesn’t mean that every LGBTQ military partner will be afforded the opportunity. In reaching this conclusion, the VA said of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, “This was the first non-Veteran partner of the same gender he was asked to consider, this is the first he has approved. It’s important to note that the Secretary did not base his decision on the individual’s marital status or state recognized relationship status, but rather based it, in part, on evidence of a committed relationship between the individual and the Veteran.”
The Veterans office wants to make it understood that this does not set a precedence for behavior, and that each case will still be reviewed individually.
But while the story of Campbell and Lynchild might not change any large-scale guidelines, it signals a small success. It’s one more little victory for equal treatment of same-sex families. And these small steps forward will add up, until it becomes ridiculous to think that we would treat partners differently because of their genders.
The idea that partners should be able to share an eternal resting place, no matter what gender they are, makes sense. It is fair. And it’s what our servicemen and women deserve.
This might not set a precedence, but hopefully it’s the beginning of a trend.