Oregon at War live chat: The military's evolution on same-sex relationships
11:45
The Oregonian: 
Hello and welcome to our live chat on the military's evolution on same-sex relationships. Oregon at War reporter Mike Francis will join us at noon. Until then, please feel free to post questions and comments. Expect a short delay between the time you post and the time you see your submission in the chat.
Monday February 18, 2013 11:45 The Oregonian
12:01
Mike Francis: 
Thanks for joining us for this conversation. It was triggered by our story this weekend about VA Secretary Shinseki's approval of the first burial of a same-sex partner of a veteran in a national cemetery. The story generated a lot of comment here and around the country. And it follows the Defense Department's movement on the issue as well.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:01 Mike Francis
12:01
The Oregonian: 
Mike, why don't you start by telling us a little about how you came to write this story about Air Force Lt. Col. Linda Campbell. Did she reach out to you?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:01 The Oregonian
12:02
Mike Francis: 
She didn't, but spokespersons for Sen. Merkley and Comm. Avakian did. They had been working with Ltc. Campbell for about nine months.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:02 Mike Francis
12:02
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
So this case involved a special waiver, not an official change of policy, is that correct?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:02 Guest
12:03
Mike Francis: 
Yes, that's right. I was just re-reading the federal code. This is a waiver of the policy in this case, granted by the secretary.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:03 Mike Francis
12:03
Mike Francis: 
It does not necessarily extend to any other same-sex couple, although it surely will trigger more such requests for waivers.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:03 Mike Francis
12:04
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Was the timing of this story coming out have any thing to do with the push for same sex marriage in Oregon?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:04 Guest
12:05
Mike Francis: 
Not from my perspective. The waiver was approved on, I think, Jan. 29. They approached me two Tuesdays ago. I interviewed Linda Campbell in Eugene two days later.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:05 Mike Francis
12:05
The Oregonian: 
The decision to allow Lynchild's burial at Willamette National Cemetery is a first. So at this point it does not set a precedent? Do you know of other requests for the burial of same-sex partners in national cemeteries?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:05 The Oregonian
12:06
Mike Francis: 
I know of no other requests yet. But the news of this waiver made headlines around the country, so I assume there will be others from people who assumed they couldn't be buried in a national cemetery.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:06 Mike Francis
12:06
The Oregonian: 
Mike, what response have you received since the story published online last week and Sunday in The Oregonian? More than 2,500 folks have shared your story on Facebook, so clearly the story has spoken to many readers.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:06 The Oregonian
12:07
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Monday February 18, 2013 12:07 
12:07
Mike Francis: 
There were about 105 comments published, I think. They were split between supportive people and those who think the waiver was a mistake.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:07 Mike Francis
12:08
Mike Francis: 
I also heard from a few people who had lost touch with Linda Campbell and asked to be reconnected.....
Monday February 18, 2013 12:08 Mike Francis
12:08
Mike Francis: 
And I got an interesting phone call from a woman who was married for 42 years to a veteran, had gotten remarried, and was told she couldn't be buried at Willamette, by her first husband's side.....
Monday February 18, 2013 12:08 Mike Francis
12:09
Mike Francis: 
But my reading of the federal code suggests she is indeed, still eligible for burial, so I referred her to Comm. Avakian's office.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:09 Mike Francis
12:09
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Why does this qualify as a big deal? I don't mean that facetiously. It what way will this waiver decision have a lasting impact that is meaningful?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:09 Guest
12:10
Mike Francis: 
That's a good question. I think the answer will become clear down the road, when we see if this opens the doors to many more such burials.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:10 Mike Francis
12:10
Mike Francis: 
For now, it's only a single case.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:10 Mike Francis
12:10
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
From your interactions with military people, what is the general attitude about the military's opening up on same-sex issues? Is it still mainly outright hostility from the rank and file?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:10 Guest
12:11
Mike Francis: 
Another good question. And I would say no. The Oregon Nat. Guard, for example, had a closeted lieutenant I met in Iraq. And with the end of Don't Ask, he came out. He says there's been no hostility. It's been a non-event.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:11 Mike Francis
12:12
Mike Francis: 
I would say that the military culture generally is pretty macho, though, so it's not necessarily easy for someone to decide to be open about his/her sexual identity in the military.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:12 Mike Francis
12:12
The Oregonian: 
Readers, all lines are open. Please send in your questions and comments.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:12 The Oregonian
12:12
The Oregonian: 
Don't Ask, Don't Tell ended in 2010. Still some differences remain in the way the military treats same-sex couples and the benefits afforded to spouses and partners. What are some of the differences? What's been the most troubling for same-sex couples?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:12 The Oregonian
12:13
Mike Francis: 
Well, The Oregonian, I'm glad you asked.....
Monday February 18, 2013 12:13 Mike Francis
12:13
Mike Francis: 
The memo from Secretary Panetta describes the areas where same-sex benefits aren't yet legal.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:13 Mike Francis
12:14
The Oregonian: 
Secretary of Defense memo on extending benefits to same-sex domestic partners of military members

http://www.defense.gov/news/Same-SexBenefitsMemo.pdf
Monday February 18, 2013 12:14 The Oregonian
12:14
Mike Francis: 
Perhaps the most important category -- apart from burials, which is a matter for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs -- is in terms of housing. Same-sex couples aren't eligible for base housing, nor for the housing allowance.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:14 Mike Francis
12:14
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
You said the subjects of the article came to you. Why did they decide they wanted to go public about something -- their relationship, dying and burial -- that is typically intensely private?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:14 Guest
12:15
Mike Francis: 
Again, Linda Campbell didn't come to me directly, but she cooperated after the offices of Sen. Merkley and Comm. Avakian came to me. She was very open and answered every question I asked, more generously than I would have, I imagine.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:15 Mike Francis
12:16
Mike Francis: 
She is, by nature, not a showy person and I think she's surprised by the level of attention her case has received. But I think the senator and the commissioner recognized it as groundbreaking and asked if she was willing to cooperate with a newspaper story/photos.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:16 Mike Francis
12:17
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Why did the Oregonian feel that this story warranted running it on the front page of the Sunday paper?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:17 Guest
12:17
Mike Francis: 
I have to defer to my editor about the story's placement. But I'm glad the editors saw fit to play it the way they did. There's actually a back story about the publication that I can give you after she responds.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:17 Mike Francis
12:18
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Hi, I'm Mike's editor and we chose to use it on the front page of the paper because it was an historic moment. And, it was a window into how same-sex issues were coming into policy discussions in the military. Mike was able to tell that policy story with a real person, thanks to Linda Campbell. There was just no question the news of this moment deserved front page play. And, Mike wrote the story by putting it in its historic context.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:18 Guest
12:18
The Oregonian: 
That response is from Joany Carlin, Mike's editor.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:18 The Oregonian
12:19
Mike Francis: 
The back story is that we feared we would lose the story if we waited all the way to Sunday for the print edition, since that's the only day we had enough space to run it at full length, with photos. So we published online only on Thursday....
Monday February 18, 2013 12:19 Mike Francis
12:19
Mike Francis: 
....that triggered a bunch of secondary stories by the Associated Press, CNN and others. By the time we published on Sunday, it was familiar news to some.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:19 Mike Francis
12:20
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
What's the percentage of private-sector companies that offer same-sex benefits -- and are they always equal to those of the traditionally married?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:20 Guest
12:20
Mike Francis: 
You're asking a question I can't answer without doing some research. I know that some do.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:20 Mike Francis
12:20
Mike Francis: 
I assume it's a minority of companies.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:20 Mike Francis
12:21
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Not to sidetrack here, but isn't it safe to say that we're just starting to see these changes come about? I mean, I see this all as the tip of the iceberg. We're talking about a fairly dramatic shift in the military's attitude toward same-sex relationships, and I can't imagine that it's all going to happen overnight.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:21 Guest
12:22
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
The story looks like an endorsement from the Oregonian for the push for same sex marriage in Oregon.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:22 Guest
12:22
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Several comments from readers have said the same. But, if the Department of Veterans Affairs issues a waiver for the burial of a same-sex spouse for the first time, we would be ignoring news if we didn't report this.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:22 Guest
12:22
The Oregonian: 
That's Joany Carlin responding again as Mike's editor.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:22 The Oregonian
12:23
Mike Francis: 
It does seem as if changes in military and veterans policy are accelerating. From Don't Ask Don't Tell in the early- mid-Nineties to repeal in 2010, to the extension of more same-sex benefits this year, it's happening pretty quickly.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:23 Mike Francis
12:23
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Does Linda Campbell want to return to anonymity, or is she planning on being the face of this issue, staying out in the public view?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:23 Guest
12:24
Mike Francis: 
I think the main thing for Linda Campbell is having Nancy Lynchild's ashes interred at Willamette. She is talking to the VA about a headstone design/inscription. The last we talked, she didn't plan a public ceremony.....
Monday February 18, 2013 12:24 Mike Francis
12:24
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
As a lay reader, I'd have to disagree with the comment that the story appears as an endoresement for same-sex marriage in Oregon.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:24 Guest
12:25
Mike Francis: 
...but, of course, it will be her choice if she chooses to be a public figure on this issue. Sometimes, it seems that people have no choice.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:25 Mike Francis
12:25
The Oregonian: 
Also interesting to note how much of Lynchild's health care costs Campbell has shouldered. That would have been different if they'd been a traditional married couple, correct?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:25 The Oregonian
12:26
Mike Francis: 
Yes. And I didn't ask to see medical bills or anything, but she did mention that the couple shouldered some costs that would have been covered under Linda Campbell's veterans benefits. I believe it was many thousands of dollars.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:26 Mike Francis
12:27
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Why wasn't it all covered by veterans' benefits?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:27 Guest
12:28
Mike Francis: 
Since people have asked about Linda Campbell's intentions, I want to stress that she is not a crusader. She assumed she had no right under federal policy to be buried at Willamette. Her conversation with Commissioner Avakian was the first time she realized it may be possible and she became hopeful.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:28 Mike Francis
12:29
Mike Francis: 
As to the question about why medical costs weren't covered, it's the same thing: They didn't ask. I believe they both assumed they wouldn't be. But perhaps, if they had asked, their request would have been granted.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:29 Mike Francis
12:29
The Oregonian: 
Readers, what do you think of the military's evolution on same-sex relationships? Is it too slow? Too fast? What needs to change or not change?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:29 The Oregonian
12:30
Mike Francis: 
Remembering that there are two federal agencies involved ... the Defense Department and the VA.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:30 Mike Francis
12:30
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Too fast? Too slow? Hard to say. It's probably been just about right.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:30 Guest
12:31
Mike Francis: 
The Goldilocks pace!
Monday February 18, 2013 12:31 Mike Francis
12:31
The Oregonian: 
How did Avakian come to play such a large role in this? How far was he prepared to go on Campbell's behalf?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:31 The Oregonian
12:31
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
DoD and VA... Not exactly two of the swiftest bureaucracies, when it comes to change!
Monday February 18, 2013 12:31 Guest
12:31
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
The military should go by the law and only give benefits the way the law is written. If the Federal government recognizes same sex marriages then the military will follow the law.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:31 Guest
12:32
Mike Francis: 
Comm. Avakian initially had no idea he was going to get involved in such a potentially major case.....
Monday February 18, 2013 12:32 Mike Francis
12:32
Mike Francis: 
....but after talking to Linda C., he recognized that there was a civil rights issue involved. And that's what his office handles....discrimination claims.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:32 Mike Francis
12:33
The Oregonian: 
Folks, Mike will be with us for about 10 more minutes. Don't wait to submit those questions and comments.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:33 The Oregonian
12:33
Mike Francis: 
The VA gave no answer from about May last year to the end of January, so he was preparing an official complaint, that would have led to a legal proceeding.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:33 Mike Francis
12:34
Mike Francis: 
But, of course, there's no way to know how it would have turned out. It's kind of hard to imagine the state of Oregon prevailing against the federal government on such a central issue.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:34 Mike Francis
12:34
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Mike, are you planning on following up this story in some way?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:34 Guest
12:35
Mike Francis: 
Well, yes, as events warrant. I have no story in my hip pocket today, but certainly am willing to follow up as the situation evolves.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:35 Mike Francis
12:35
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
How could it be a civil rights case when same sex marriage is not legal in Oregon?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:35 Guest
12:36
Mike Francis: 
Oregon law does forbid discrimination on grounds of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. But Comm. Avakian would be the better one to answer that.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:36 Mike Francis
12:36
The Oregonian: 
Mike always welcomes your story ideas. Add them to the chat or send him an email at mfrancis@oregonian.com
Monday February 18, 2013 12:36 The Oregonian
12:37
Mike Francis: 
In the complaint that the commissioner prepared, here's a key sentence....
Monday February 18, 2013 12:37 Mike Francis
12:37
Mike Francis: 
"Oregon law provides that an individual in a registered domestic partnership is entitled to 'any privilege, immunity, right or benefit.....
Monday February 18, 2013 12:37 Mike Francis
12:38
Mike Francis: 
...granted by statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other law to an individual because the individual is or was married."
Monday February 18, 2013 12:38 Mike Francis
12:38
[Comment From Robert B.Robert B.: ] 
Mike, where do you see the next fight for LGBT equality in the military service taking place?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:38 Robert B.
12:39
Mike Francis: 
That's a big question, and I'm certainly not on the front lines of that debate. But it seems obvious that housing privileges remain unequal, so that's a ripe area.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:39 Mike Francis
12:40
The Oregonian: 
Any last thoughts before we sign off?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:40 The Oregonian
12:40
Mike Francis: 
I do appreciate the questions and the interest in this subject. It was a privilege for me to tell Linda Campbell's and Nancy Lynchild's story for The Oregonian.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:40 Mike Francis
12:40
[Comment From Robert B.Robert B.: ] 
Thanks for the story and your time today, Mike!
Monday February 18, 2013 12:40 Robert B.
12:40
Mike Francis: 
Thanks for reading.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:40 Mike Francis
12:40
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Does the Oregonian endorse smae sex marriage?
Monday February 18, 2013 12:40 Guest
12:41
Mike Francis: 
You know, I don't think the editorial board has gone quite that far, but I hesitate to say because that's the other side of the building. They don't dictate to us, and we don't dictate to them.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:41 Mike Francis
12:43
Mike Francis: 
Joany Carlin just found an editorial we published in which the editorial board suggested that Oregon Republicans have an opportunity to appeal to voters by endorsing the idea of same-sex marriage.
Monday February 18, 2013 12:43 Mike Francis
12:43
The Oregonian: 
With that, let's wrap things up. Thanks, Mike, for today's chat. And thanks, readers, for your questions and an interesting conversation. Remember to follow Mike's coverage of military news at www.oregonlive.com/oregonatwar
Monday February 18, 2013 12:43 The Oregonian
12:44
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Not quite the same thing!
Monday February 18, 2013 12:44 Guest
12:44
Mike Francis: 
Thanks, everybody, for participating. I welcome your follow-up comments, suggestions and brickbats: mfrancis@oregonian.com
Monday February 18, 2013 12:44 Mike Francis
 
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