U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) met with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community leaders today at a Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee meeting to discuss legislative priorities for the 113th Congress and underscore her commitment to LGBT equality. Shaheen specifically spoke about her legislation, the Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act, which would provide additional benefits to military spouses and families, regardless of sexual orientation.
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 will not be eligible for certain survivor benefits because of the current definition of "spouse" in federal code.
"I welcomed the opportunity to sit down with leaders from the LGBT community this morning and discuss the issues facing LGBT Americans and families," Shaheen said. "While we have seen progress in moving towards equality, all of us recognize that much more remains to ensure full and complete equality. One place where that is especially clear is in our military, where families like Charlie Morgan's are denied critical benefits because of current law. That is an unacceptable reality. LGBT Americans and families deserve equal treatment under the law and I am committed to working to achieve that goal."
Shaheen has been a vocal advocate in calling for the extension of benefits to LGBT service men and women and their families since the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in 2011. Shaheen applauded the decision by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in January to extend a slate of benefits to LGBT military families after she and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called on Panetta to bring benefits for LGBT service members up to par with heterosexual couples.
Shaheen has also repeatedly called for a full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which currently prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. In March Shaheen joined 211 members of Congress in filing an amicus brief outlining the legal rationale for repealing DOMA on grounds that it is unconstitutional.