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Officers’ Wives Club Excludes Lesbian Army Wife

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by Winnie McCroy
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Preventing Other Military Spouses from Discrimination

Broadway’s situation is the latest case of what can be perceived as military-sanctioned discrimination that continues in a post-DADT world. It will probably not be the last.

Stokes pointed to the situation that surrounds lesbian National Guardsman Charlie Morgan as an example.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charlie Morgan, a 17-year full-time member of the New Hampshire Army National Guard, is fighting Stage IV breast cancer. She fears that if she dies, the Defense of Marriage Act will prevent survivor benefits from being granted to her wife Karen Morgan.

DOMA prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, even in states where they are legal. This deprives those in same-sex marriages the same military housing, medical, education and other benefits provided to their straight counterparts.

The 47-year-old Charlie Morgan married her partner Karen in New Hampshire this October, a decade after they entered into a civil union in Vermont. The two women have a 4-year-old daughter, Casey Elena, who is eligible for health care and other privileges, but Morgan’s wife is not.

Fearing that her family will not be able to support itself should she die, Morgan sent out multiple requests to speak with Speaker of the House John Boehner to ask him to drop his plans to defend DOMA in court. Her requests to meet Boehner and share her story were repeatedly rebuffed, until the Huffington Post took up the case, when the Speaker’s office relented.

In a letter to Boehner dated Dec. 23, 2012, Charlie Morgan wrote, "Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Active Guard, I laid my life on the line for my country, and now I need my country to protect and care for my family. My wife and daughter face an uncertain future, unable to receive the same family support services as our counterparts who render the same service, take the same risks and make the same sacrifices."

Stokes said that because of DOMA, there was a limit to what the Pentagon could do. Still, other amenities were within their limit to grant, he noted, among them access to the base, day care, commissary and PX privileges, housing accommodations, and more. A list of the full benefits is available on OutServe-SLDN’s website.

Instead, when Charlie, Karen and Casey recently went to the commissary to shop, Karen wasn’t allowed to enter. Stokes said that their daughter, Casey, asked, "’Why can’t Mommy Karen come in to buy groceries?’ While it’s not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, it is an example of the day-to-day indignities they suffer."

"They can take action right now to deal with the day-to-day injustices these families are being put through," said Stokes. "I am confounded at why they haven’t chosen to do this yet.


Outdated Policies Leave Patchwork of Rules in Place

Stokes is among those who feel as though the Pentagon did not do enough after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in September 2011 to ensure equality. The result is a patchwork of rules that prevent some spouses from shopping at the base commissary while others can, and leaves them at the whim of individuals.

"As this case relates to larger issues, for us at OutServe, it really shines a light on the fact that the Pentagon has not taken appropriate action to make military commanders aware of what they can or cannot do as relates to same-sex military couples," said Stokes.

His organization has sent many letters and repeatedly reached out to the Pentagon over the last year to apprise them of 18 individual rules that they could amend right now, while DOMA is still in review. These include providing access to things like life insurance, appointment of a designated caregiver, retirement annuity, housing for families with children, moving expenses, commissary and exchange privileges and more.

The Pentagon said it is reviewing the issue of benefits available to same-sex couples, which could include offering ID cards to same-sex spouses. Pentagon spokesman Nate Christensen recently told BuzzFeed, "The Department is conducting a deliberative and comprehensive review of the possibility of extending eligibility for benefits, when legally permitted, to same-sex domestic partners. The benefits are being examined from a policy, fiscal, legal and feasibility perspective."

Gay advocates continue to criticize the Pentagon’s delay in acting. They note that they have been reviewing the issue of benefits since September 2011.

"The time is long past for the Pentagon to take action so we can have consistency across the board," said Stokes. "The military prides in treating their spouses the same throughout the country, and DOMA is no excuse."

Broadway’s situation, however, is yet another example of what is sure to be a steady stream of similar discrimination cases that will arise as the Pentagon continues to drag its feet on establishing concrete policies for the treatment of same-sex military spouses and their families.

"Because of the outdated Department of Defense regulations, this is all really decided on a case-by-case basis," said Lamoly. "However, many military leaders are unaware that legally married same-sex couples face the challenges seen in this particular situation. Bringing these issues to the base commands and allowing for other groups to understand these challenges that same-sex couples face in the military allows for these groups to come forward and do what they can to support military families of all kinds.

"If Ashley is allowed into the spouses’ association, it does not require all others to allow admittance, but it does set the example for other groups," Lamoly added.

AMPA has created a petition for those who want to show their support for Broadway’s struggle.


Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/


Comments

  • Anonymous, 2013-01-02 00:06:43

    Disgusting behavior.


  • Anonymous, 2013-01-02 06:03:19

    Ok everybody, let’s figure out how to turn the tight assed tucks on eachother. There must be something we have that they want like our money, brains, and talent that these people think they can do without. this shit pisses me off!


  • Anonymous, 2013-01-02 06:56:43

    Lol, well... I suppose we could block the snack aisles at the Walmart. That’ll get ’em where they gorge.


  • BOB KELLERMAN, 2013-01-02 16:37:28

    OF COURSE, SHE SHOULD BE TREATED EQUALLY --- but having the General force the group to take her, rather than educating the group to take her, only builds walls. In addition, due to DOMA, the Army does not recognize her marriage -- when DOMA is struck down by the Supreme Court, the General would have standing to order them to take her in as a full member. The method taken by Allyson Robinson is the EXACT air of entitlement and anger that was taken by the "No on Prop 8" campaign, which alienated many straight voters, and was capitalized upon by the mormons and catholic bishops. Again, due to DOMA, almost all privileges of a military spouse are denied to Ms Broadway, and she is NOT officially a wife, according to the Army YET. As the son of a late Navy officer, I know that the perks she is missing due to DOMA are much more valuable than a social group, but I completely understand that she wants to belong and to be equal, as she should. I would feel differently if this were a school. job, or housing, but it’s mainly a social and service group, which is going to be of more value to Ms Broadway after they are persuaded to want her, not forced to take her. Going ape over the General asking for another month seems petty and counterproductive.


  • Anonymous, 2013-01-03 03:31:24

    My heart truly aches for this woman.As a same-sex military partner...I know what it feels like to be denied the simple privelages that others take for granted.I just recently had to pay my own way to Germany and struggle to get my visa because the Army will not sponsor me due to DOMA...and had I not moved, I would be lucky to see my partner more than 4 days out of the year.I couldn’t even buy her a guerrilla box at the PX because I could not get a military ID. I really hope her situation gets resolved and she is allowed to join.It’s just so sad that people don’t realize just how much all the restrictions, rules, and separation can truly hurt a relationship...all because not everyone agrees that love is love :(


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