Sen. Shaheen Urges Defense Secretary To Allow Same-Sex Couples Into DOD Family Events

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is urging Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to review the military’s decision to exclude a same-sex couple from a yellow ribbon event in New Hampshire this weekend. Shaheen made the request after learning that Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard “has been forbidden from bringing her same-sex spouse of 11 years” to the ceremony due to federal regulations and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the military from extending benefits to same sex couples. From Shaheen’s letter:

Though DOD’s policy may have been consistent with DADT requirements, given the repeal of DADT, I urge you to immediately end its practice and allow same sex couples to participate in all future DOD family events. Department of Defense family events, particularly the YRRP, often provide critical information and training to family members regarding the symptoms and effects of various combat-related injuries, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain injury (TBI). Denying same-sex spouses the chance to attend DOD family events not only violates basic equality standards, it could also have real negative effects on service member health and safety.

I recognize that the Department faces certain limitations with respect to benefits for same-sex couples pursuant to the National Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, I concur with the findings of the Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network that that there are numerous actions the Department has the authority to take in the near term that are both consistent with current law and would address many of the challenges same-sex couples continue to face, including access to DOD family events.

Morgan came out as a lesbian on national television just minutes after Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was officially repealed on Sept. 20. She told the Portsmouth Herald that her unit is eager to meet her partner. “The hard part about it is that my unit wants to meet her; they want her to go,” Morgan said. “I’ve had a lot of support from the Guard and nothing but respect from my leadership.”