WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Wednesday urged members of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs to pass a bill that would provide key military benefits for same-sex spouses of gay service members.
Shaheen co-sponsored the Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act – named for New Hampshire National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, whose wife and daughter were denied survivor and other benefits after Morgan’s death from breast cancer early this year.
Morgan had crusaded for equal treatment of same-sex military couples.
“After Charlie’s diagnosis in 2008, she and her wife spoke repeatedly about how these practices against same-sex couples would devastate their family if Charlie died,” Shaheen testified. “We must ensure that all our military families who have sacrificed so much have access to the services and treatment they need and deserve.”
Under the bill, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs would be required to honor any marriage that has been recognized by a state and provide a number of key benefits to the spouses of all service members.
“Since the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ there have been two classes of service members in this country — one that receives the nation’s full recognition, support and benefits and one that does not,” according to Allyson Robinson, Executive Director of Outserve-SLDN, an advocacy group for LGBT service members and veterans.
“By making an arbitrary distinction between gay and lesbian troops and their straight comrades, and forcing commanders to play favorites, the law as it stands harms all service members and weakens the force. This legislation fixes that problem,” said Robinson.
According to Outserve-SLDN, there are more than 100 benefits granted to service members, veterans and their families contingent on marital status.