In a new video from Freedom to Marry, Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan — a lesbian member of the National Guard facing Stage IV breast cancer — explains how her wife Karen and five-year-old daughter Casey Elena would not be entitled to survivor’s benefits because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Charlie came out live on MSNBC in the wake of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, and has since met with John Boehner’s office to discuss how legally married gay and lesbian couples are denied thousands of federal protections under DOMA. In 2008, Morgan was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. Declared cancer free, she was deployed to Kuwait for one year, but the cancer returned last September. It is incurable, and Charlie and Karen say why DOMA is only making their tough times worse:
CHARLIE: The concern is, if something was to happen to me and I was to die within the next couple of years, my concern is that Karen would not be provided the same survivor benefits. [...] When you talk about the casualty notification, all those things that happen as far as being recognized — military funerals — all those things that Karen wouldn’t be able to coordinate because she wouldn’t be recognized as my spouse because of the Defense of Marriage Act. She would just be recognized as a friend.
Title 38 of the United States Code (veterans’ benefits) and DOMA reject Karen as Charlie’s “spouse.” If Charlie died, Karen would not receive the benefits enjoyed by the spouses of heterosexual service members, including a burial flag and the option to be buried together. In addition, thousands of dollars of survivor’s compensation that would help Karen take care of their five-year-old would also be denied. For 16 years, Charlie has served the United States with honor and dedication. Now, stricken with Stage IV cancer, she is being denied peace of mind by DOMA’s double standard.