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Karen and Charlie Morgan flank SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis
at the National Press Club, Oct. 2011 (SLDN/Flickr)
The Defense of Marriage act sustained a one-two punch from two lesbians in the armed forces this week. On the heels of Southern Poverty Law Center announcing they would be joining the scrum of lawsuits designed at challenged DOMA's constitutionality, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has made announcement  of their own.

Speaker Boehner
(Wikicommons/Gage Skidmore)
With the help of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Charlie Morgan is challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in court. On December 23, 2011, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charlie Morgan, a 17-year full-time member of the New Hampshire Army National Guard wrote to the Speaker to request a meeting to discuss the House of Representative continued defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. The bill has been struck several times as unconstitutional in trial court, and the Justice Department has itself determined it cannot withstand scrutiny.

But the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House, at Speaker Boehner's request voted to defend the law, and Morgan wants Speaker Boehner to know the consequences of that decision. Morgan faces a cancer diagnosis that is not operable, and her prognosis is not good. She fears she will not live to see the lawsuit through. She wrote Boehner:

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 take care of my family. My wife and daughter farce 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.

Now the Huffington Post is reporting:

"I want to be able to tell my personal story, to tell him we have similar values when it comes to family and the military," Morgan told HuffPost in a phone interview. "I want him to really look me in the eye and [know] he's hurting my family and so many other families" by defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

Morgan's requests had been stonewalled by Boehner's office until HuffPost reached out to his office for a comment.

“The Speaker’s staff would certainly be willing to meet with Ms. Morgan,” Michael Steel, Boehner's spokesman, emailed HuffPost today.

Let's hope they have a good meeting. News of Southern Poverty Law Center's constitutional challenge of DOMA on behalf of a military veteran after the fold.

Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris on their wedding day. (SPLC)
DOMA has been under fire from Gay & Lesbians Advocates and Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union, Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New York, the Justice Department, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Lambda Legal, the National Center Of Lesbian Rights. It's hard to keep track of them all.

Sgt Cooper
Sgt Cooper-Harris
Now the Southern Poverty Law Center has joined the pile on of groups challenging DOMA in court. They have taken on the case of Tracey Cooper-Harris a 12-year Army veteran, who served Kyrgyzstan and Kuwait. After returning she married her wife Maggie in Van Nuys, California in 2008.

Cooper-Harris, has since been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, has applied for Veteran's Administration compensation commensurate with her status as a married veteran. She was denied. She also wishes to be buried alongside her wife at a national veteran’s cemetery, again, she was denied.

SPLC reports Tracey as saying, “I dedicated 12 years of my life to serving the country I love. I’m asking only for the same benefits the brave men and women who served beside me enjoy. By refusing to recognize our marriage, the federal government has deprived Maggie and me of the peace of mind that such benefits are meant to provide to veterans and their families.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, charging that DOMA is unconstitutional because it discriminates on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. It also challenges the VA’s definition of “spouse” as discriminatory.

“The government’s refusal to grant these benefits is a slap in the face to the gay and lesbian service members who put their lives on the line to protect our nation and our freedoms,” said Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “Especially given the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, it’s shocking that the federal government continues to demean Tracey’s years of service and the service of many others in this way.”

Randall R. Lee, co-counsel in the case is working with the SPLC on a pro bono basis says:
“It sends a disturbing message to gay and lesbian service members that the courage, commitment, and sacrifice they make on behalf of their country are not valued as much as the service of heterosexual military veterans.”

Cooper Harris previously participated in SLDN's "Letters to the President" public education campaign during the battle for repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Hers was a particulary heartbreaking story, as she shared how she was coerced into sexual service to maintain the secret of her lesbianism. She explained:
I had a choice: report these men for "sexual harassment/cohesion" and end my military career or submit to their demands.
These women have been through enough.

Can Speaker Boehner deny them the comforts of having their family cared for? Will someone stand up and finally say to him:

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Originally posted to Angry Gays on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 04:41 PM PST.

Also republished by Milk Men And Women and Military Community Members of Daily Kos.

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