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Morgan Family Calls for Dem Platform to Include Freedom to Marry

For immediate release:
July 28, 2012

Contact: Zeke Stokes at
202.621.5406 or zeke@sldn.org

(Minneapolis, MN) Chief Warrant Officer (CW2) Charlie Morgan and her wife, Karen, today shared their fight for equality - and for CW2 Morgan's life - with national Democratic leaders who will draft the Party's 2012 platform.  CW2 Morgan - a member of OutServe, the association of actively serving gay and lesbian service members - is undergoing intravenous chemotherapy in her battle with incurable stage-four breast cancer. She recently returned from a deployment to the Middle East. Though the couple was married in New Hampshire in 2011 after nearly 14 committed years together, they still do not receive the same federal protections as their straight, married peers. Should CW2 Morgan not survive her battle with cancer, her wife would not receive the survivors' benefits she desperately needs to take care of their 5-year-old daughter, Casey Elena.

“The only thing we’ve ever asked is to be treated just like any other family,” said Karen Morgan, who spoke for the couple on Saturday in Minneapolis, as CW2 Morgan's voice has been compromised by a tumor pressing on her vocal chords. “Our relationship is built on love, honor, and commitment through any obstacle life brings. Especially as a military family serving our country, it’s so disheartening in our time of need to be treated like second-class citizens. Now that our commander in chief has taken a stand for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples -- a freedom we enjoy in New Hampshire -- it's time that our nation's decision makers at all levels do the same and ensure that all marriages are recognized by our federal government."

The couple was featured in an online video released last week as part of Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry, a joint campaign of Freedom to Marry and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) spotlighting the inequalities forced upon gay and lesbian service members by the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Along with seven other couples, they are plaintiffs in a landmark lawsuit filed by SLDN in October 2011 challenging DOMA and other federal statutes that prevent the military from providing equal recognition and support to same-sex military spouses.

Their full statement, as prepared and deilvered is as follows:

CHARLIE: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the drafting committee. My name is Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, and this is my wife, Karen. I am in the New Hampshire National Guard and have served our great nation in uniform for more than 17 years. Karen is a special education teacher who has been forced to quit work so that she can care for our 5-year-old daughter, Casey Elena, as I serve and battle stage IV breast cancer.  It is Karen who will do most of the speaking today, because as you can hear, my voice is very weak due to a tumor pressing against my vocal chords.

KAREN: Thank you, Charlie. My wife Charlie and I have been together more than 15 years, and throughout that time, we’ve been committed to each other in a similar way as you’ve been committed to your own spouses or life partners. We were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000, and when we finally felt it was safe to be legally married last year following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” we did so immediately. Celebrating our marriage with family and friends, affirming and strengthening our commitment to one another, and making the universal promise to share all of life’s joys and sorrows together has made our relationship stronger. And it’s made our family stronger. And that’s just it. We are a family, just like any other family. We’ve based our relationship on love and honor and respect. My commitment to Charlie – and our commitment to Casey Elena - is the most important part of our lives. When Charlie and I swore our lives to each other we meant forever. For better or worse. In sickness and in health.

We also believe in serving our country; that’s why Charlie is an Active Guard Reserve Education Officer. That’s why we saw it as simply part of our duty as a military family when Charlie deployed to mobilization training at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and then Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, for a year as part of Operation New Dawn.

It’s why I took leave from my career as a special education teacher to support her deployment, take care of our daughter – and now, take care of Charlie in her sickness.

But in spite of all that and in spite of the fact that we are legally married, the United States government still treats us as legal strangers. Our government will not allow me access to health and dental insurance under Charlie’s coverage – meaning we must shoulder the huge expense of purchasing it at full cost – or go without. Sadly – and quite frightening – right now I am without health insurance because we simply cannot afford it

I am unable to get a military ID to have access to the facilities and services that other families automatically enjoy. In fact, when Charlie and Casey Elena go into the commissary on base to buy groceries, I am forced to stand outside and wait for them. I cannot even go inside.

And our government – the one Charlie serves every day, even now with cancer – won’t provide survivor’s benefits to me should she not win her brave battle. And I need those benefits in order to care for our daughter.

Perhaps this is the scariest part of all.

In 2008, Charlie was diagnosed with breast cancer. A double mastectomy and multiple rounds of chemotherapy saved her life. Declared fit to serve in 2010, she fulfilled her duty in Kuwait and returned home to our family. But last September, there was more bad news: Her cancer was back. It was metastatic and incurable. She has undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation since, and, frankly, we don't know how long she will be with us.

Military survivor benefits cannot save Charlie’s life, but they can make sure that our family is able to keep going if she loses this battle with cancer.

Charlie traveled to Washington in February to meet with the staff of House Speaker John Boehner. She told them about her service to our country and her battle with cancer and asked him to drop his legal defense of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which renders our marriage a second-class union in the eyes of the federal government. He ignored her pleas.

But hearing President Obama express his support for the freedom to marry in May, we had new hope. Here was our commander in chief, standing behind our family, asserting that we were just as deserving of this special commitment as any other family. As a military family through and through, we carry that statement of solidarity with us as we keep pushing, every day, to be treated just like every other family in the United States.

We’re asking you today to stand with our family and so many other loving and committed same-sex couples and families by making marriage for all committed couples part of the party platform. We’re asking you to take a stand for equality, for love, and for families like us all over the nation.

CHARLIE: Ladies and gentlemen. I am not afraid to die. As a soldier, I accepted that possibility when I deployed. But I am afraid that Karen will not receive the benefits we have earned as a family, to take care of Casey Elena when I am gone. Thank you for the opportunity to share our story.

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ABOUT 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: 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.

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