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Gay Service Member Questions Boehner's Staff on DOMA

Gay Service Member Questions Boehner's Staff on DOMA

Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, a member of the New Hampshire National Guard who is part of a lawsuit challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, met Thursday with an assistant to House speaker John Boehner to discuss the detrimental impact of the 1996 law.

Morgan, who is battling late-stage breast cancer, said that during the 20-minute meeting with policy assistant Katherine Haley, she discussed DOMA's harms and asked that Boehner reconsider defense of the law. A House Republican-led legal advisory group voted last year to defend DOMA after the Obama administration's Justice Department announced that it would no longer do so.

Morgan also met Thursday with New Hampshire senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Morgan's congressman, Rep. Frank Guinta, a Republican.

In the meeting at the speaker's office, Morgan said she told Haley that due to her current state of health, she was concerned for the welfare of her wife, Karen, and the couple's 4-year-old daughter, Casey Elena. Despite the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," gay service members and their families are denied equal benefits, including survivor's benefits.

"I explained to her that the reason I'm here today is that I have stage IV breast cancer, and I don't have the luxury of time for the legislative process to overturn this," Morgan said via phone following the meeting with Haley. Morgan said the speaker's representative was "very empathetic" but told her that Boehner would continue to defend DOMA.

Morgan returned last year from a deployment in Kuwait and had been told by the New Hampshire National Guard that she was not authorized to bring her spouse to a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event. The Pentagon later clarified that gay service members were allowed to designate same-sex spouses as guests at such events following a letter sent by Shaheen to Defense secretary Leon Panetta on behalf of Morgan.

In October the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network moved to address benefits inequity with a lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of several married gay service members and their spouses.

The group, which comprises active-duty and reserve service members as well as veterans, seeks parity in medical, housing, and other benefits that Defense Department officials have said they're unable to extend because of DOMA, as well as sections of the U.S. Code specific to the military that define "spouse" to the exclusion of married gay couples. The Justice Department has a February 28 deadline to respond to the suit.

David McKean, legal director for SLDN, also attended the Thursday meeting at Boehner's office. The Huffington Post's Andrea Stone has more on Morgan's meeting here.

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