SWAN Applauds Bill Providing Equal Benefits for Same-Sex Military SpousesCritical Legislation Introduced in Honor of Deceased Service Woman, Advocate for LGBT Troops by Senator Gillibrand, Senator Shaheen

(New York, NY) – On Friday, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced legislation to make additional benefits available to all military spouses and families regardless of sexual orientation. The Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013 is named after New Hampshire National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, who passed away last week after battling breast cancer.  Karen, Morgan’s wife, is not eligible for survivor benefits because of the military’s policy on same-sex marriages.

“Our hearts are broken over the loss of Officer Charlie Morgan, and the added suffering her family now must endure because of unjust military policy,” said Anu Bhagwati, Executive Director of Service Women’s Action Network(SWAN) and a former Marine Corps Captain. “It is appalling that men and women in uniform are not afforded equal benefits by U.S. military because of their sexual orientation. We applaud Senator Shaheen and Senator Gillibrand for their swift work to bring justice to LGBT military families – this critical legislation is long overdue.”

According to advocacy organization OutServe-SLDN, over 100 benefits granted to service members, veterans and their families are contingent upon marital status. The Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013 would extend some of these key benefits, including access to the military health care program (Tricare); funding to allow a service member’s spouse to accompany them when he or she is assigned to a new duty station, and surviving compensation for the spouse of a deceased service member. 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.

“The story of Charlie Morgan offers a powerful example of why we need immediate action to end LGBT discrimination in our military,” said Senator Shaheen. “Charlie served on the front lines for our country, but because of her sexual orientation her family is wrongfully being denied many of the same benefits given to those who stood beside her.”

“This legislation is an important step forward in achieving full equality for all of our men and women serving and fighting for our nation,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Same-sex partners of military servicemembers should not be denied essential benefits because of who they are.”

Despite Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s recent announcement of an extension of benefits to LGBT military families, much more must be done to ensure equal treatment for all service members. The Charlie Morgan Act would require the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs 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. By allowing for an individual to be considered a “spouse” if their marriage is valid in their state, this bill ensures that same-sex military families receive many of the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

SWAN urges Congress to pass the Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013 immediately for the families of brave LGBT service members and veterans who have served their country. SWAN staff is available for interview and comment.

SWAN is a national nonpartisan civil rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN’s mission is to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without discrimination, harassment or assault; and to reform veterans’ services to ensure high quality health care and benefits for women veterans and their families. For more information visit  www.servicewomen.org