As Cancer-Striken Soldier Fights for Life, 30,000+ Petitions Delivered to Congress to Repeal DOMA

7/18/2012

 

CW2 Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard and family featured in new SLDN, Freedom to Marry video

 

Contact:  Angela Dallara at 646-430-3925 or angela@freedomtomarry.org (Freedom to Marry)

Zeke Stokes at (202) 621-5406 or zeke@sldn.org (SLDN)

(Washington, DC)
 – Freedom to Marry and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) today released a new online video featuring Chief Warrant Officer (CW2) Charlie Morgan and her wife, Karen, spotlighting the inequalities forced upon gay and lesbian service members by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Morgan - who is battling incurable stage four breast cancer - recently returned from a deployment to the Middle East.  Should she not survive this battle for her health, her wife would not receive the survivors' benefits she desperately needs to take care of their now five-year-old daughter, Casey Elena.

 

"In 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy to save my life.  In 2010 - declared cancer free by my oncologist - I was deployed to Kuwait for one year in support of Operation New Dawn.  I faithfully fulfilled my duty and returned home to my wife and our then four-year old daughter.  But last September, we learned the awful truth that my cancer has returned.  It is metastatic and incurable.  We don't know how long I have," CW2 Morgan said today.  

 

SLDN and Freedom to Marry also announced meetings on Capitol Hill to deliver the petition signed by 30,000 supporters of the Respect for Marriage Act via the Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry campaign.  The video and petition delivery are the latest initiatives of the national campaign by the two organizations highlighting the stories of military families harmed by DOMA.  

 

The Morgans are plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by SLDN in October 2011 challenging DOMA and three other federal statutes that prevent the military from providing equal recognition and support to same-sex military spouses.  Currently, the Morgans do not receive the same protections as their straight, married peers, and Karen would not be entitled to survivor's benefits upon CW2 Morgan's death.

 

CW2 Morgan drew national support in February when she visited Capitol Hill to meet with the staff of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), tell her personal story, and share how the Speaker's ongoing legal defense of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) via the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) harms her family. There, she detailed her battle with incurable stage-four breast cancer and asked the Speaker to drop his legal defense of DOMA.  Boehner has ignored her pleas and continues to defend the discriminatory law in court.  

 

"It's unfathomable to me how anyone could look at the Morgan Family and not be moved by their reality.  Here's a service member, who has risked her life for our nation overseas and now is fighting for her life here at home.  She shouldn't be forced also to fight for her family to be recognized, respected, and provided the same support as any of her peers would receive.  It's time to end the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and treat all service members as first-class Americans," said Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis.

 

“Many people think that our troops are serving freely and fairly alongside each other as a result of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ but that is not the case,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry. “There is still a federal ban on treating married service members as what they are: married. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act continues to discriminate against gay and lesbian service members and their families, including the Morgans, by denying them the critical safety-net of protections and responsibilities that come only with marriage. It is time to do what’s right by our military families, end federal marriage discrimination, and give all married service members the same fairness, dignity, and respect.”

 

Because of the ‘gay exception’ created by DOMA, America’s legally married gay and lesbian couples are denied more than 1,100 federal responsibilities and protections, including access to military insurance programs, Social Security survivors benefits, equal treatment under U.S. immigration laws, and the opportunity to take leave to care for a spouse.

 

Freedom To Marry's federal program works to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and make the case for marriage to government officials, opinion-leaders, and political operatives in Washington, DC. Freedom To Marry jointly leads the Respect for Marriage Coalition, a diverse group of nearly 75 organizations working together to repeal DOMA.  Since the introduction of the Respect for Marriage Act, the number of cosponsors has increased from 18 to 32 in the Senate, including every Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and from 108 to 151 in the House of Representatives.

 

For more information on Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry, visit www.freedomtomarry.org/serve.

 

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ABOUT FREEDOM TO MARRY: Freedom To Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.

 

ABOUT SLDN: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America's military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination. Since 1993, our in-house legal team has responded to more than 11,500 requests for assistance. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: Call 1-800-538-7418 or 202-328-3244 x100.