Target: Eric Shinseki – Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Goal: Commend the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for approving the burial of the same-sex partner of a veteran in a national cemetery
Recently, Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, was asked to consider the burial of Oregon veteran Lt. Col. Linda Campbell’s partner Nancy Lynchild in a national cemetery. Shinseki said it was the first case of its kind and he approved it after considering the committed relationship between the two women. This approval and recognition comes after the abolition of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a clause that kept gays from serving openly in the military. With this historic decision, Shinseki has taken a step toward gay tolerance in the armed forces.
While Shinseki’s decision has positive attributes for gay rights in the military, a statement released by the Department of Veterans Affairs says this decision was individual and does not reflect an official change in policy. Recently Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pushed for further benefits for gay military couples. Same-sex partners who sign a domestic partnership declaration will be eligible for survivor benefits, including life insurance as well as access to bases and military hospitals. Due to limitations established by the Defense of Marriage Act, many benefits are still prohibited, including health care coverage.
The national discourse of gay rights and same-sex marriage is slowly having a paradigm shift. As more states legalize same-sex marriage and more open discussions about gay rights occur, the fear and anxiety associated with gay discourse is dissipating. There are, of course, still extremists who stand steadfast in prejudice and judgment, but those extremists are beginning to become marginalized fringes that will eventually die out.
Eric Shinseki and the Department of Veterans Affairs have taken a step to normalize gay rights in the American military, a traditionally homophobic organization. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley applauded the decision and stated it was a “historic moment.” He included that any veteran should have the right to be “buried in a national cemetery with their partners by their side.” Sign the petition below and thank Eric Shinseki and the Department of Veterans Affairs for this positive step toward equal rights for all veterans.
Dear Mr. Shinseki,
Recently you approved the burial of Nancy Lynchild, same-sex partner of Oregon veteran Linda Campbell, in a national cemetery. This letter is to thank you and applaud your decision. While this decision doesn’t reflect a change in military policy, it reflects a positive paradigm shift in gay rights discourse. Your decision has taken a positive step for all gay people serving or wanting to serve in the United States military.
As more states legalize same-sex marriage and gays can now openly serve in the military, gay rights will have to become a normalized discussion in the military and you have helped move that discussion forward positively. Senator Jeff Merkley has stated your decision was a “historic moment” and I agree.
Thank you for your consideration of the honor for veteran Linda Campbell to eventually be buried next to her committed partner, Nancy Lynchild. I hope your decision will push the Department of Veterans Affairs to have a shift in policy.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Amy Groark via Flickr