PORTLAND — The Department of Veterans Affairs has decided to allow the same-sex spouse of a member of the military to be buried in a U.S. national cemetery.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki used his discretionary authority to allow the burial of Nancy Lynchild’s ashes, the agency said Thursday. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who called Shinseki last month to lobby for the action, said the Oregon couple will become the first same-sex couple buried together in a national military cemetery. The VA said the request was the first of its kind that Shinseki was asked to consider, and the first he has approved.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a memo to the military services this week that the issue of burials remains a challenge and is under review. A hurdle is the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing any marriage other than that between a man and a woman.