Frontlines: The Latest from OutServe-SLDN

What Does the Pentagon’s Benefits Announcement Mean?

On Friday, multiple media outlets - Buzzfeed was among the first - reported that the Defense Department will begin to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners starting September 1, 2013.

The Department of Defense had set a goal of August 31, 2013 for implementing the benefits extension, but did not have firm deadline before October 1, 2013. Now it appears the Department of Defense will implement this extension on the early side of the implementation window. The benefits extension policy was announced on February 11, 2013 by then-Secretary of Defense Panetta after lengthy advocacy by OutServe-SLDN to do so. Secretary Hagel reconfirmed his commitment to extending these benefits in a memo dated April 24, 2013.

For a comprehensive FAQ and explanation of the benefits extension, please see:

By David McKean, OutServe-SLDN Legal and Policy Director | Comment (0)

Memorial Day: A Flag for a Soldier, But Not Her Wife

I have a flag that I'm technically not allowed to have. It's the flag that was draped over my wife's coffin at her funeral on Feb. 10. It is military custom to personally and proudly present that flag to the spouse of a fallen soldier, but because my wife, CW2 Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard, was married to a woman instead of to a man, our marriage doesn't exist in the eyes of the government that she served for 17 years.

Charlie was an amazing wife, mother and soldier who died in February after a five-year battle with metastatic breast cancer. But in our 16 years together, cancer wasn't the only battle that we fought. Even as Charlie served her country, we lived as a family in hiding, with the discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy hanging over our every move. It was only when DADT was lifted in 2010 that we could safely be a family in the eyes of the military and make the public promise of marriage to each other.

But our short-lived celebration quickly came to a halt when we realized that the federal Defense of Marriage Act still prohibited the military from acknowledging both our 10-year civil union and our legal New Hampshire marriage. It dawned on us that if Charlie were to lose her battle with cancer, I would not be viewed as her wife. I would not be assured the financial protections that military spouses depend on in the wake of losing a life partner.

I was terrified. I couldn't stop worrying about what this meant for our 5-year-old daughter, Casey Elena. Charlie was a soldier in every sense of the word, and she fought her final battle ferociously so that others wouldn't have to go through that same pain. In the end, cancer claimed Charlie before the battle was won.

Now I keep fighting in her memory. In March, just weeks after losing my wife, I watched with tears in my eyes as the cases against both DOMA and California's Proposition 8 made their way to the Supreme Court of the United States. I had that strength only because of Charlie. She dedicated her life to her country and her family, and before she died, she made me promise never to give up.

Since Charlie's death, I have applied and been rejected for survivorship benefits, such as VA and Social Security benefits that would have automatically been available to a heterosexual spouse. I do not have access to the health insurance that heterosexual spouses have when their loved one dies on active duty. When I die, I will not be allowed to be buried beside my wife in the veterans' cemetery.

Facing this future as a second-class citizen, I desperately hope that the Supreme Court will bring equality to all gay families and strike down DOMA. It haunts almost every aspect of our lives, and it doesn't measure up to the litmus test of freedom and equality that we've set as a standard for our way of life in the United States. It's time for freedom and justice to prevail, and for those who purport to stand for those values to apply them fairly to all the citizens of our country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Morgan lives in New Hampshire and is the widow of Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan. She remains a plaintiff in OutServe-SLDN’s federal lawsuit McLaughlin v. Panetta, which is challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court.

By Karen Morgan, Plaintiff, McLaughlin v. Panetta | Comment (0)

Week in Review - May 17, 2013

Pentagon Recognizes Transgender Veteran with OutServe-SLDN Assistance. The Pentagon formally recognized earlier this month that there are transgender veterans — a step that LGBT advocates say is a long way from open transgender service in the military, but also a significant first step in that process. To read more, click here.

OutServe-SLDN Board of Directors Adopts New Mission Statement. Last weekend in Washington, DC, the OutServe-SLDN Board of Directors met to finalize and approve a new mission statement for the organization that focuses on growing OS-SLDN for the future beyond just the achievement of our policy initiatives. To see the new mission, click here. 

Join the OutServe-SLDN Online Town Hall Saturday at 2 p.m. EDT.  OutServe-SLDN will host its second online town hall meeting on Saturday, May 18 at 2 p.m. EDT for members and supporters. The event - a Google Hangout entitled "A new era, a new kind of organization" - will focus on the recent adoption of a refined mission statement by the OutServe-SLDN Board of Directors, provide a preview of the new membership structure about to be announced publicly, and allow participants to submit questions to OS-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson and Director of Chapter and Member Services Gary Espinas. For more information, including directions for participation, click here.

OutServe-SLDN in Seattle Next Week. OutServe-SLDN will host a reception in Seattle, WA next weekend. Ticket prices start at just $25 and may be purchased here.

By Zeke Stokes, OutServe-SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)

OS-SLDN Provides Testimony on Charlie Morgan Act

Today the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs was scheduled to hold a hearing to consider a number of legislative items. The hearing was postponed, but a Committee spokesman confirmed that it will be rescheduled. When it is, one of the items Committee members will hear about will be the Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013. The bill is named after our dear friend Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, who passed away earlier this year after a brave and tireless battle with cancer. Before she passed, Charlie did so much to advance the cause of LGBT military equality, especially by highlighting the damage that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act does to our service members, veterans and their families.

I was invited by the Committee to submit testimony, which I was honored to provide. In my testimony, which you can read here, I discuss Charlie's effort to see DOMA and other discriminatory provisions repealed. I also convey to the Committee why the Charlie Morgan Act is necessary regardless of what the Supreme Court does with DOMA. I hope that you take a moment to learn more about this important piece of legislation. You can read more here.

By Allyson Robinson, OutServe-SLDN Executive Director | Comment (0)

Week in Review - April 12, 2013

Military Families Challenging DOMA Set to be Honored at Logo TV’s NewNowNext Awards. OutServe-SLDN and Logo Television announced Thursday that uniformed service members and veterans will be in the audience to be honored at the cable television network’s NewNowNext Awards ceremony, taking place in Los Angeles, CA, this weekend. The show will air on Logo TV at 10:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, April 15, 2013. For more on the event and OS-SLDN's nomination as "Most Innovative Charity," click here

Gay Marine Captain, Fiancé Featured in "Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry Campaign" Video. Freedom to Marry and OutServe-SLDN this week released the newest video in their joint “Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry” campaign, featuring gay U.S. Marine Corps Captain Matthew Phelps and his soon-to-be husband Ben Schock. Captain Phelps and Schock previously made news when they became the first-ever same-sex couple to get engaged through a marriage proposal at the White House. For more information and to watch the video, click here.

OutServe Magazine Names New Editor-in-Chief. OutServe-SLDN, the publisher of OutServe Magazine, announced this week that Angelina Leger, an award winning multimedia artist with more than fifteen years of experience, has been named editor-in-chief of the publication, now in its third year of production. Previously, Leger served as operations and graphics director for the magazine, which is available bi-monthly in print and digital versions and focuses on news, advocacy, human interest, and travel for LGBT service members, as well as their families and supporters. For more, click here

Join Us in Seattle on May 23 to Support OutServe-SLDN. Col. Grethe Cammermeyer, USA (Ret.), RADM Alan M. Steinman, USCG (Ret.), Matthew Phelps & Ben Schock, and Maj. Margaret Witt, USA (Ret.) invite you to join us for a reception honoring America's service members, veterans and their families. Click here to RSVP or make a contribution. 

By Zeke Stokes, OutServe-SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)

Week in Review - April 5, 2013

Registration Opens for 2013 International Leadership Conference. Registration is now open for the 2013 OutServe-SLDN International Leadership Conference and is open to all OutServe-SLDN members and supporters. This is a family-inclusive conference, and there will be activities planned throughout the weekend for children 12 and under. We encourage you to make your entire family a part of this exciting weekend. Get more details and register to attend here.

More U.S. Senators Support the Freedom to Marry. This week brought additional support for marriage equality from both Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. Senate. To read the latest, click here. 

Navy Chaplain Officiates Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony. Last weekend, on Saturday, March 30, Jonathan Franqui and Navy Senior Chief Dwayne D. Beebe hosted their wedding ceremony among all of their loved ones at Old Christ Church in Pensacola, Florida. The couple met in 2011, had an instant connection, and have had a whirlwind romance ever since. They've fallen in love, been accepted into each other's family circles, and got engaged during the San Diego LGBT Pride Parade, the first Pride parade where gay and lesbian service members were authorized to wear their uniforms. Read more here.

OutServe-SLDN Nominated "Most Innovative Charity" by Logo Television. OutServe-SLDN is nominated to receive Logo Television's NewNowNext award in the category "Most Innovative Charity." Please cast your vote here and pass along the link to your friends, family, and colleagues. 

By Zeke Stokes, OutServe-SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)

Week in Review - March 15, 2013

Military Officials, Service Members Urge Supreme Court to End DOMA. Former Congressman and former U.S. Navy Three-Star Admiral Joe Sestak this week joined with Former Congressman, Army Captain and Iraq War Veteran Patrick Murphy, OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, and Staff Sgt. Tracy Johnson in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to end the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Thirty military officials and OutServe-SLDN, which represents gay and lesbian service members and veterans, each filed an amicus brief in the United States v. Windsor case challenging DOMA and being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 27. Read the news release here.

Final Legal Resolution for former Air Force Major Mike Almy. OutServe-SLDN and the law firm Morrison & Foerster announced on Friday that their client, former Air Force Major Mike Almy, has reached a settlement in his lawsuit against the Defense Department that challenged his 2006 discharge under the discriminatory, now-repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) law. Read the news release here.

March 26 Rally for Marriage Scheduled at the U.S. Supreme Cout. On Tuesday, March 26, OutServe-SLDN will join other supporters of the freedom to marry for a rally at the Supreme Court as oral arguments are heard in two cases related to Prop 8 and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. To RSVP for the rally, click here

OutServe-SLDN Nominated "Most Innovative Charity" by Logo Television. OutServe-SLDN is nominated to receive Logo Television's NewNowNext award in the catergory "Most Innovative Charity." Please cast your vote here and pass along the link to your friends, family, and colleagues.

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Week in Review - March 1, 2013

OutServe-SLDN to Supreme Court: Strike Down DOMA: OutServe-SLDN on Friday filed an amicus curiae brief with the United States Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Windsor arguing that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) harms military families and compromises national security. The brief, on which the law firm Chadbourne & Parke serves as counsel, urges the Court to strike down the law as unconstitutional. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled in late March. 

Meanwhile, retired Navy Captain Joan Darrah, a plaintiff in OutServe-SLDN's lawsuit challenging DOMA in federal court, represented the organization and LGBT military families as broad bipartisan coalition of organizations filing briefs came together in Washington, DC for a news conference spotlighting harm DOMA does to LGBT Americans. To read the news release, click here

Hagel Confirmed Secretary of Defense. Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson praised the Senate this week for confirming former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel by a vote of 58-41 as the nation’s next Secretary of Defense. She called on him to address the military's lack of discrimination and harassment protections for gay and lesbian service members. To read the news release, click here

Broadway Boys Set to Headline OS-SLDN National Dinner March 9. OutServe-SLDN announced the addition of The Broadway Boys to the lineup for the upcoming March 9 2013 National Dinner in Washington, DC. The group is a collection of the hottest male voices currently working on the New York stage. Through their dynamic vocal prowess and redefining arrangements, the Boys add elements of Pop, Funk, Gospel, Jazz, and Folk to showtunes and classic pop songs. Tickets are still available and may be purchased here

By Zeke Stokes, OutServe-SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)

Week in Review - February 22, 2013

Collateral Damage: How the Defense of Marriage Act Harms the Troops and Undermines the U.S. Military. Following Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s recent announcement that the Department of Defense would extend some benefits to same-sex couples, advocates quickly turned to another stumbling block—the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on its constitutionality this summer. This week, the Center for American Progress and OutServe-SLDN released a report, “Collateral Damage: How the Defense of Marriage Act Harms the Troops and Undermines the U.S. Military,” which details exactly how DOMA negatively affects gay service members and their families. Read the report and watch the video here.

Retiring Army Colonel Tapped to Become First OutServe-SLDN Chapter Director. Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson announced this week the appointment of Colonel Gary D. Espinas, currently a military professor of national security affairs in Monterey, California, as the first Director of Chapter and Member Services at OutServe-SLDN. Espinas will begin the newly created full-time position on April 30 following his military retirement. Read the news release here.

Bishop Gene Robinson Joins Lineup for March 9 National Dinner. Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson has joined the lineup of special guests for the March 9 OutServe-SLDN National Dinner in Washington, DC. Other special guests scheduled to appear include former Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA); reality television stars and winners of CBS’s The Amazing Race, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and his partner Brent Ridge (The Fabulous Beekman Boys); Washington Post opinion writer and MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart; and the first same-sex couple to wed in the West Point Cadet Chapel, Sue Fulton and Penelope Gnesin. To purchase tickets, click here

By Zeke Stokes, OutServe-SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)

Week in Review - February 15, 2013

Remembering Charlie Morgan. OutServe-SLDN mourns the loss of one of our own this week, CW2 Charlie Morgan, who passed away following a nearly two-year fight with cancer punctuated by her own family's battle against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). To read OutServe-SLDN's statement on the passing of CW2 Morgan, click here.  On Friday, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced The Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act in her honor. To learn more, click here

Panetta Extends Benefits. Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson praised outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta for his decision to extend to nearly the full extent permitted under current law the benefits available to gay and lesbian service members and their families. Though Panetta’s announcement did not include a number of important items that could have been granted - including on-base housing, burial rights at national cemeteries and some overseas travel for spouses, which remain under consideration - Robinson called the package “substantive” and acknowledged that the Pentagon has done almost as much as it can with the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still on the books. To read the news release, click here.

Robinson Will Deliver "State of LGBT Miltary Service" Address at National Dinner. The 2013 OutServe-SLDN National Dinner will take place at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC on Saturday, March 9, 2013. The organization’s Executive Director, Army veteran Allyson Robinson, will deliver her first “State of LGBT Military Service” address to set the stage for an evening expected to draw a thousand service members, veterans, families, and allies. To purchase tickets or become a table captain or sponsor, click here

By Zeke Stokes, OutServe-SLDN Communications Director | Comment (0)

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