PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — Charlie Morgan, a chief warrant officer in the New Hampshire Army National Guard, is being remembered as a fighter for equal rights.
A memorial service was held in a Portsmouth church Thursday for the 48-year-old Morgan, who lost her battle with breast cancer Sunday. She fought to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act barring her wife from receiving benefits to help care for their daughter.
Morgan’s widow, Karen, discussed the couple’s participation in a lawsuit seeking the same benefits for same-sex couples that the U.S. military provides for heterosexual couples.
The Portsmouth Herald reports (http://bit.ly/11Kh6pa) Mark Lahey, Morgan’s supervisor during their deployment to Kuwait, said Morgan was dealt the “cruelest” of ironies. He said she was charged with ensuring military personnel had equal opportunities, but was denied the same.
On Thursday night, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced a measure to make additional benefits available to all military spouses and families, regardless of sexual orientation. It’s called the Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act.
Currently, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are limited in what benefits may be made available to the spouses of same-sex couples. Shaheen and co-sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said the measure would require those departments to honor any marriage that has been recognized by a state and provide a number of key benefits to the spouses of all service members.
By allowing for an individual to be considered a “spouse” if their marriage is valid in their state, the bill ensures that same-sex military families receive many of the same benefits as heterosexual couples in particular states.
According to the group Outserve-SLDN, there are more than 100 benefits granted to service members, veterans and their families contingent on marital status. The group says the Charlie Morgan Act would extend some of these benefits, including access to the military health care program Tricare; funding to allow a service member’s spouse to accompany them when he or she is assigned to a new duty station; and surviving compensation for the spouse of a deceased service member.