Photo Credit: The U.S. Army The government has cleared the first burial of a same-sex spouse of a veteran in a national cemetery, but it’s far from certain how easy it will be for other gay military couples to win the same benefit.
Who gets buried where is one of the practical decisions that the federal government is grappling with following repeal of the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy.
At first glance, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s decision to grant burial to a same-sex spouse in Oregon represents a big departure from past federal policy. In 2004, the VA warned the state of Massachusetts that burying the same-sex spouse of a veteran in a state veterans’ cemetery could lead to the federal government taking back nearly $12 million in grant money.
Then in 2008, the National Cemetery Association published a directive stating that individuals in same-sex civil unions or marriage are not eligible for burial in a national cemetery or state veterans cemetery that received federal money. Those directives were based on the language of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines a spouse as a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife. The law is being challenged before the Supreme Court.
Then along came retired Lt. Col. Linda Campbell and her spouse, Nancy Lynchild. Campbell, with help from Oregon officials, pressed the VA to allow Lynchild to be buried at the VA’s Willamette National Cemetery.
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