The US government has permitted the first burial of a same-sex spouse of a military veteran in a nation cemetery, however whether or not this will affect other gay military couples is unknown.
The Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman, normally means same-sex couples would not be permitted to have a nonveteran partner buried in national cemeteries.
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, however, granted a waiver in this case, saying that, despite not being married, he based his decision on the “committed relationship between the individual and the veteran.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has said it will allow Nancy Lynchild to be buried at Willamette National Cemetery, south east of Portland, Oregon.
Lynchild was married to Linda Campbell, who retired from the military after serving on active duty in the Air Force, the Oregon Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserves. She died of cancer in December at 64.
“My commitment to our country, shown through the service that makes me eligible for burial at Willamette, 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 VA on 2 January, following Lynchild’s death.
The issue of burial in national cemeteries is one of many issues faced by the US government, following the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the ban on openly gay people serving in the military, on 20 September 2011.
The VA had insisted that this waiver only applied in the case of Campbell and Lynchild, however some have said the precedent set by it would be too strong to ignore in future cases.