by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
More than 30,000 petitions have been delivered to Congress by Freedom to Marry and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) seeking legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), citing the inequalities it has forced upon Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan and her wife, Karen.
Morgan, who is battling incurable stage-four breast cancer, recently returned from a deployment to the Middle East. Should she not survive the battle for her health, Karen would not receive the survivor benefits she would need to care for the couple's 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,' Morgan said July 18. '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.'
SLDN and Freedom to Marry also announced meetings at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., 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.
'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 servicemembers as what they are - married. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act continues to discriminate against Gay and Lesbian servicemembers 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 servicemembers the same fairness, dignity, and respect.'
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 Morgan's death.
Morgan drew national support in February when she visited the Capitol to meet with the staff of Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), tell her personal story, and share how the Speaker's ongoing defense of DOMA via the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group harms her family. There, she detailed her battle with cancer and asked the Speaker to drop his support 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 this wonderful family and see how they're being treated unfairly,' said Army veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis. 'Here's a servicemember 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 servicemembers as first-class Americans.'
Because of the 'Gay exception' created by DOMA, America's legally married Gay and Lesbian couples are denied more than 1,100 federal protections, benefits, and responsibilities, including access to military insurance programs, Social Security survivor 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, D.C. 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 in Congress, the number of co-sponsors 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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