by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Washington's U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, drafted a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki this week, calling for an expedited waiver process granting same-sex veterans and their spouses burial rights in national cemeteries.
Currently, only members of the opposite sex are buried next to their veteran spouse in national cemeteries.
'For the LGBT members of our nation's armed forces, and for those of us who support them, the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was only the first step on the road towards equality,' said Murray. 'Our country now must work to ensure each of our heroes receives the same quality care and services once they leave the military - and this includes a dignified burial for them and their spouses. I was glad to see Secretary Shinseki honor the request of Lieutenant Colonel [Linda] Campbell on behalf of her wife Nancy and am hopeful he will not only seriously consider similar requests in the future, but implement an expedited process so no veteran will have to face uncertainty when mourning the loss of their spouse.'
'THE RIGHT THING TO DO'
Murray was joined by 15 other senators in sending the letter, which read in part:
'We strongly believe in equality under the law for all Americans, particularly for our veterans, who continually put themselves in harm's way for our country. It is unacceptable that, after selflessly serving their nation, these men and women who have given so much would not be allowed to be buried next to the person they love in our national cemeteries & Offering burial rights in national cemeteries to same-sex spouses of our nation's veterans is not only a matter of fairness and equity, it is simply the right thing to do.'
On January 29, Secretary Shinseki granted a waiver, the first of its kind, for the burial of civilian Nancy Lynchild in Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. Her spouse, retired Lt. Col. Linda Campbell, led the months-long effort to make the waiver a reality.
Besides Murray, the senators who signed the letter were Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mark Begich (D-AK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
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