By CNN Staff
(CNN) — In what’s believed to be the first case of its kind, the same-sex spouse of a member of the military will be buried in a national cemetery.
“I am deeply grateful to my country for honoring and respecting my years of service and my relationship with Nancy, the love of my life,” said retired Lt. Col. Linda Campbell, a veteran.
“Willamette National Cemetery is a beautiful, peaceful place. Knowing that Nancy and I can join my parents on that hallowed ground is a source of great comfort and healing,” she said.
Nancy Lynchild, Campbell’s partner, died in December of metastatic cancer.
The cemetery is located southeast of Portland, Oregon.
The Department of Veterans Affairs released a statement, saying Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki used his discretionary authority in the case.
“This was the first non-Veteran partner of the same gender he was asked to consider, this is the first he has approved. It’s important to note that the Secretary did not base his decision on the individual’s marital status or state recognized relationship status, but rather based it, in part, on evidence of a committed relationship between the individual and the Veteran,” it read.
His decision applies just to Campbell and Lynchild; it does not represent an official change in policy.
Though gay people can now serve openly, the military doesn’t formally recognize same-sex marriage under the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The divisive act, which was passed in 1996, bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages and says other states cannot be forced to recognize them.
During her 25-year military career, Campbell served in the National Guard and Reserve. She was an Air Force recruiter, a military aide to the Oregon governor and served on the Governor’s Military Advisory Council. During the Vietnam War, her duties included Air Force casualty notification for Colorado.
Lynchild worked as a home repair specialist and as director of housing with the Housing and Community Services Agency of Lane County, Oregon, according to a statement from Campbell, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian.
The senator applauded the the secretary’s decision.
“I can only hope that this historic moment is just the first of many for same-sex couples across the nation. All our veterans deserve the honor of being buried in a national cemetery with their partners by their side,” he said.
CNN’s Carma Hassan contributed to this report.
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