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CHARLIE MORGAN ACT ADVANCES IN SENATE

Shaheen’s legislation would expand benefits for veterans in same-sex marriages

July 24, 2013

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-NH) legislation to extend benefits to same-sex military couples cleared a major legislative hurdle today after it passed the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee on a bipartisan voice vote. The Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act would update and expand federal benefits for legally married, same-sex veteran couples and help put the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) policies in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  The legislation is named after New Hampshire National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, who passed away earlier this year after a battle with breast cancer. Morgan’s wife and daughter have not been eligible for certain survivor benefits because of the definition of “spouse” in federal code. The bill was originally introduced in February.

“Every individual who serves in uniform should have access to the benefits they’ve earned,” Shaheen said. “Charlie served on the front lines for our country, but because of her sexual orientation her family has been wrongfully being denied many of the same benefits given to those who stood beside her.”

“The Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA was a victory for the belief that all Americans are to be treated equally under the law, and I am pleased the Veteran’s Committee has built on the landmark progress we’ve seen for marriage equality,” Shaheen added. “I hope the full Senate will move forward on the Charlie Morgan Act so that finally no spouse, child or family is denied benefits they have earned and deserve.” 

While the Department of Defense has already begun the process of making the same benefits available to all military spouses following the June 26 Supreme Court ruling against DOMA, the VA has not. The legislation advanced today would bring the VA in conformance with the Supreme Court ruling and expand eligibility for benefits for spouses married in states that allow gays to wed. 

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