Senate Dems introduce bill expanding military benefits to gay members

“This legislation is an important step forward in achieving full equality for all of our men and women serving and fighting for our nation,” Gillibrand said. “Same-sex partners of military service members should not be denied essential benefits because of who they are. We must ensure that all of our military families who have sacrificed so much have access to the services and treatment they need and deserve.”

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Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are limited to what services they can provide to same-sex couples and their families. Currently, nine states have legalized gay marriage and the Illinois legislature is considering it.

Shaheen and Gillibrand’s bill would make sure all service members and their families get access to the military healthcare program (TRICARE), funding to allow a service member’s spouse to accompany them when he or she is assigned to a new duty station and surviving compensation for the spouse of a deceased service member — benefits same-sex couples currently don't receive.

The bill is named after New Hampshire National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, who died from breast cancer this week. Shaheen said that Morgan’s wife, Karen, is not able to access survivor benefits because of the military’s policy on same-sex marriages.

“The story of Charlie Morgan offers a powerful example of why we need immediate action to end LGBT discrimination in our military,” said Shaheen. “Charlie served on the front lines for our country, but because of her sexual orientation her family is wrongfully being denied many of the same benefits given to those who stood beside her. That is an unacceptable reality and I’m committed to doing all I can to make sure that no spouses, children and families are denied benefits they have earned and rightly deserve.”