You really never know how you're going to find a personal connection to a story that, on the surface, doesn't seem to be related to you.
Besides this site, one of the places I most often go for news is Equality on Trial, a site originally called "Prop 8 Trial Tracker dot com" that was set up to cover the events surrounding California's anti-marriage-equality ballot measure on its way to the Supreme Court. It seems to function as a one-stop shop for issues of LGBT equality, a topic near and dear to me. One of the site's regular contributors is our own Scottie Thomaston, which means that its worth visiting just for a good read. But I digress.
Follow me past the orange scrunchy...
This morning's initial offering at Equality on Trial was a story that piqued my interest not for a really personal reason but because marriage equality is one of those issues near and dear to me. If you're familiar with my diaries you know that perhaps 90 percent of them them deal with such relationships in one form or another because I am, after all, a gay man.
The story in question involved the first ever successful attempt to have a same-sex spouse buried at a National Cemetery. I have never in any way been involved with the military and have never been involved with a veteran, though I certainly have had friends, gay and straight, who've served our nation. The question of who deserves to be buried in a National Cemetery is one that came up during the First District Massachusetts vs Department of Health and Human Services case in which the state of Massachusetts challenged DOMA on the basis that DHHS had threatened to withhold funds from the state for the maintenance of national cemeteries there if they consented to allow the same-sex spouses of veterans to be buried in those cemeteries.
Today's item covered the case of retired Air Force Lt Col Linda Campbell who lost her partner, Jean Lynchild, to breast cancer last year. The couple had married in Vancouver, Canada in 2010 (they'd also been married in Portland in 2004 when Multnomah County briefly decided to buck Oregon's mini-DOMA, but their marriage, like those performed in San Francisco that year and others performed in Portland during the same time period were voided by the state courts). Campbell fought and was assisted in her fight at both the state and national level with appeals to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki for the right to have her spouse buried with her in Willamatte National Cemetery. She was able to obtain a waiver for her request from the Secretary.
So what's the personal connection here?
She later worked for the Housing Authority of Portland and then the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department as a subdirector in the agency’s Portland branch.
Ms Campbell was a HUD employee. So am I. HUD currently has about 9,100 employees which, in the scheme of things, really isn't all that many. She was my colleague though we never met in person. So yes, there is a personal connection between me and the a former member of the military who happens to be a lesbian. It doesn't look like it on the surface but there it is.
Nobody should be denied the right to rest in peace by the side of the person they most loved in their lives. The fight for equality continues and we're all in it together. We're far more connected with "those others" than we ever think about.