February 12, 2013

Advocate for gay-spouses benefits dies

Guard member Charlie Morgan fought the U.S. law that bars her widow from military benefits.

The Associated Press

-CONCORD, N.H. - Charlie Morgan, a chief warrant officer in the New Hampshire Army National Guard who fought to repeal the federal law that bars her wife from receiving benefits to help care for their daughter, has died. She was 48.

Morgan died Sunday at a hospice in Dover after a battle with breast cancer, said a spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Morgan, of New Durham, was a nationally recognized advocate in the effort to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act. She was a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit in 2011, saying the act violated her constitutional rights.

Under the act, the Pentagon is required to ignore same-sex marriages, which are legal in several states, including New Hampshire. Morgan, after finding out she had cancer, was worried that her spouse and their daughter would be unable to receive military, Social Security and other benefits if she died.

"She deserves the same benefits as any other spouse," Morgan said in 2011 at the first-ever national convention of gay military personnel on active duty. "She went through the same stress, fear and concern during my deployment as any other spouse."

Shortly before that, Morgan came out on national television on the day the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was repealed.

In February 2012, she visited Capitol Hill to meet with the staff of House Speaker John Boehner to tell her story.

She said her breast cancer was diagnosed in 2008, and she underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. She was declared cancer-free in 2010 and was deployed to Kuwait for one year. She returned home to her wife, Karen, and then-4-year-old daughter. But she also learned that the cancer had returned and was incurable.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, of New Hampshire, said Morgan "epitomized courage in her military service, her fight for LGBT equality and her battle with cancer. "

A service has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday at South Church in Portsmouth.

 

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