The Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013 is meant to make a large number of benefits available to all military spouses and families without regards to sexual orientation. The Senate version of the bill has gained a new cosponsor in Kirsten Gillibrand. The New York Senator is on the Armed Services Committee. The bill was introduced to the Senate by New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan recently passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. She leaves behind her wife, Karen, and their five-year-old daughter.
Senator Gillibrand stated that “This legislation is an important step forward in achieving full equality for all of our men and women serving and fighting for our nation. Same-sex partners of military servicemembers should not be denied essential benefits because of who they are. We must ensure that all of our military families who have sacrificed so much have access to the services and treatment they need and deserve.”
Senator Shaheen added that “The story of Charlie Morgan offers a powerful example of why we need immediate action to end LGBT discrimination in our military. Charlie served on the front lines for our country, but because of her sexual orientation her family is wrongfully being denied many of the same benefits given to those who stood beside her. That is an unacceptable reality and I’m committed to doing all I can to make sure that no spouses, children and families are denied benefits they have earned and rightly deserve.”
Due to the Defense of Marriage Act, the Department of Defense and the Office of Veterans Affairs cannot act extend a large number of benefits to lesbian and gay service members and their spouses. This bill would, in part, allow those two departments to honor any marriage recognized by a state when it comes to providing certain key benefits. According to some sources, these changes would have to be made to the Uniform Code of Military Justice even if DOMA is overturned or repealed.
The bill would extend military health care, joint duty assignments, and survivor benefits.
OutServe-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson said in response to the move from Shaheen and Gillibrand “Since the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ there have been two classes of service members in this country – one that receives the nation’s full recognition, support and benefits and one that does not. By making an arbitrary distinction between gay and lesbian troops and their straight comrades, and forcing commanders to play favorites, the law as it stands harms all service members and weakens the force. This legislation fixes that problem and honors the legacy of Charlie Morgan, who made this her life’s work even as she fought for her own health over these last two years.”
She also said “Treating service members equally, without partiality or favoritism, is one of the most basic principles of sound military leadership. For this reason, equality for LGBT troops and their families is a national security issue. Commanders should not be forced to treat some service members like second-class citizens because the federal government does not recognize their marriages. Today, we thank Senator Shaheen for taking this crucial step to strengthen our military, and we urge her colleagues in both parties and in both houses of Congress to join her and us in this important fight.”