The staff of Basic Rights Oregon were saddened today to hear of retired Lt. Air Force Col. Linda Campbell’s passing. Linda was a fierce champion for equality, and the first member of the US armed forces to win approval to be buried beside a same-sex partner in one our country’s National Cemeteries in 2013.
Campbell and her partner Nancy Lynchild spent 17 years together, becoming domestic partners twice and trying (but failing) to marry three separate times: in San Francisco, Portland, and Washington, D.C. Finally, the pair were able to legally wed in Canada in 2010.
For 12 years, Nancy struggled with metastatic cancer and the effects of chemotherapy. In later years, the question of burial arrangements loomed large in Linda’s mind. Despite her 25 years of service, military policies at the time prohibited Nancy from being buried in a military cemetery – an honor granted to other military spouses.
With the help of Brad Avakian, Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Linda wrote to the Department of Veterans Affairs, asking for a waiver that would allow her and Nancy to be buried together when the time came. Her efforts were also supported by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, who personally approached Secretary Eric Shinseki on her behalf. After a nine-month campaign, more than a month after Nancy’s death, she received word that the waiver had finally been granted.
In interviews with the press, Linda always described herself as a lifelong “rule follower,” but her trailblazing efforts opened the door for other gay and lesbian couples seeking recognition of their commitment to one another.
Amy Herzfeld-Copple, Basic Rights co-executive director said, “Linda Campbell was a torchbearer and holds a special place in our hearts at Basic Rights. She served as an inspiration for our community and we take comfort in the knowledge that Linda will be buried alongside Nancy.”