Gay Service Member to Attend Military Event with Partner
BY Advocate.com Editors
October 19 2011 9:26 PM ET
A member of the New Hampshire National Guard will be allowed to attend an upcoming Yellow Ribbon event with her same-sex partner, Defense Department officials said Wednesday.
Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, who returned recently from a deployment in Kuwait and made headlines when she came out in the national media following repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” said earlier this week that she was not authorized to bring her partner of 11 years to a required-attendance Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event.
On Tuesday, New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta regarding the matter and urged the department to “allow same-sex couples to participate in all future DOD family events.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez told The Advocate late Wednesday that same-sex partners or spouses are allowed to attend such events:
"According to applicable law and DOD policy, a member of the uniformed
services who is eligible to attend a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program
event may designate one or more people of his/her choosing to attend," Lainez said in an email response.
Lainez said the Defense Department "has received [Senator Shaheen's] letter and will respond to her as appropriate. We have also addressed this issue with the New Hampshire National Guard."
Shaheen, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a Wednesday statement, “This is terrific news for Charlie Morgan and her family. But this is just one small
part of a much larger problem. We have a fundamental inequity in our
policy, which has created two classes of soldiers. It isn’t fair and it
has to end.”
In an interview published Monday, Morgan, who is in a civil union with her partner, told the Portsmouth Herald, “The purpose [of the Yellow Ribbon program] is to reconnect the families. My unit wants to meet my family, but it's out of their hands," she said, referring to the Defense of Marriage Act.
The full news release from Senator Shaheen’s office:
(Washington, D.C.) – The Department of Defense has clarified regulations that will allow Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard to bring her same-sex partner to a yellow ribbon family reintegration event in North Conway this weekend, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen announced today.
“This is terrific news for Charlie Morgan and her family,” said Shaheen, who yesterday sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asking him to get personally involved in the case. “But this is just one small part of a much larger problem. We have a fundamental inequity in our policy, which has created two classes of soldiers. It isn’t fair and it has to end.”
The Guard and the Department of Defense said today that gay and lesbian service members may take advantage of a regulation that allows service members to designate any one person, regardless of relationship, to join them at a yellow ribbon event.
Chief Morgan recently returned from deployment in Kuwait and was forbidden from bringing her partner of 11 years, Karen Morgan, to a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event in North Conway this weekend even though the couple is legally joined in a civil union. The event is part of an official program designed to help returning soldiers and their families deal with the transition to life back home. Senator Shaheen’s office raised concerns on behalf of Morgan with local Guard officials in recent weeks. After Guard officials said they were hamstrung by federal regulations, Shaheen sent a letter to Secretary Panetta, asking him to get personally involved.
Gay and lesbian members of the military have only been able to openly acknowledge their relationships in the last year, after Congress voted last December to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The decision to exclude same-sex couples from the yellow ribbon event was based on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the extension of military benefits to same sex couples, and on federal military regulations interpreting that law. Shaheen’s letter to Panetta asked him to do all he can under the confines of the law to make same-sex couples and their families eligible for family centered programs like this weekend’s event, and other family benefits available to straight married couples, such as joint duty assignments and military family housing.
Shaheen is also cosponsor of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The Respect for Marriage Act (S. 598) would allow same-sex couples whose marriage is recognized by a state, such as New Hampshire, to receive the same treatment under federal law as straight married couples.
“Ultimately, this conflict in our military policy is not sustainable,” Shaheen said. “We cannot ask the members of our military to live under different standards depending on whether they are gay or straight. I urge the military to do all it can under the law to promote equality in their regulations, and I urge Congress to join me in the fight to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.”
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