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Lesbian mom who sought military benefits dies

Feb. 12, 2013 - 09:01AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 12, 2013 - 09:01AM  |  
Charlie Morgan died Sunday in New Hampshire.
Charlie Morgan died Sunday in New Hampshire. (Isaac Brekken / AP file)
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CONCORD, N.H. Charlie Morgan, a chief warrant officer in the New Hampshire Army National Guard who fought to repeal the federal law barring her wife from receiving benefits to help care for their daughter, has died. She was 48.

Morgan died Sunday at a hospice in Dover after a battle with breast cancer, a spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan said.

Morgan, of New Durham, was a nationally recognized advocate in the effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. She was a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit in 2011 saying the act violated her constitutional rights.

Under the federal act, the Pentagon is required to ignore same-sex marriages, which are legal in several states including New Hampshire. Morgan, after finding out she had cancer, was worried her spouse and their daughter would be unable to receive military, Social Security and other benefits if she died.

"She deserves the same benefits as any other spouse," Morgan said in 2011 at the first national convention of gay military personnel on active duty. "She went through the same stress, fear and concern during my deployment as any other spouse."

Shortly before that, Morgan came out on national television on the day the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was repealed.

On Monday, a Defense Department memo detailed a number of benefits that will be extended to same-sex partners of service members, including identification cards that will provide access to commissaries and other services but not some housing benefits. It appears the additional benefits don't apply in Morgan's case because they would not be retroactive.

In February 2012, Morgan visited Capitol Hill to meet with the staff of House Speaker John Boehner to tell her story.

She said her breast cancer was diagnosed in 2008, and she underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. She was declared cancer-free in 2010 and was deployed to Kuwait for one year. She returned home to her wife, Karen Morgan, and then-4-year-old daughter. But she also learned that the cancer had returned and was incurable.

In August 2012, the Morgans traveled to Minneapolis to testify before the Democratic Party's platform committee in support of the freedom to marry, following a video released by the groups OutServe-SLDN and Freedom to Marry detailing their story.

Morgan led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance at Hassan's inauguration on Jan. 3. Hassan said Morgan's fight for equality will outlive her fight against cancer.

"We can and should honor Charlie's legacy by continuing her fight to ensure that all families are treated equally by the state of New Hampshire and by the federal government," Hassan said in a statement.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, of New Hampshire, said Morgan "epitomized courage in her military service, her fight for LGBT equality and her battle with cancer."

A service has been scheduled for Thursday at South Church in Portsmouth.

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