NH News
12:00 am
Thu October 20, 2011

National Guard Controversy Reveals Inequity

The official end of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is barely a month old. But the circumstances around Chief Warrant Office Charlie Morgan reveal inequities still exist within the U.S. military. Gay rights advocates hope Morgan’s story pressures the Department of Defense and Congress to keep leveling the playing field.

Now that ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is gone, Chief Charlie Morgan can be as OUT to friends and co-workers at the New Hampshire National Guard as she wants to be.

But that doesn’t change the fact that if her spouse Karen gets sick, then she’s out of luck says attorney David McKean.

McKean is a lawyer with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

He says the spouses of gay soldiers are denied key benefits.

“Those are major benefits like Tricare, the military’s medical insurance program, dental care insurance as well as the basic allowance for housing.”

McKean says spouses like Karen Morgan can’t get these benefits and others because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

McKean says the Department of Defense has discriminatory policies on its books, which has nothing to do with DOMA.

That includes preventing same sex couples from accessing military housing.

But the lawyer says he’s pleased to see the Pentagon act quickly to ensure Chief Morgan’s family can attend the family program this weekend.

“It’s a positive sign because it shows that D o D does care and wants to provide equality of benefits where it can. Because of DOMA, the way it needs to do that is somewhat convoluted, but it’s encouraging that at least in one instance taken the step to provide equality of benefits for same sex families.”

The question is whether D o D will continue making policy changes.

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, wants to see that happen.

Shaheen was instrumental in helping the Morgan family attend the reintegration program.

At some point, if the Pentagon provides more benefits to same sex couples, its policies will push up against the Defense of Marriage Act.

Shaheen says the momentum may be enough to repeal DOMA.

“I think we’ve seen tremendous change in my lifetime. When I grew up I went to segregated schools in southern Missouri. We’ve seen changes for women, we are fortunately seeing changes for the gay and lesbian population. I think ultimately we will get there. It’s frustrating that it’s taking so long.”

Shaheen says that day will only come if people like Charlie and Karen Morgan keeping pushing.