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Gay Guardsman wins day

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 19. 2011 8:11PM

Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan of Rye served as the equal opportunity adviser during the New Hampshire National Guard's 197th Fires Brigade's recent deployment to Kuwait. (SHAWNE K. WICKHAM/Sunday News)

NORTH CONWAY - The New Hampshire National Guard has reversed its ruling that a gay Guardsman could not bring her spouse to an upcoming National Guard event following intervention efforts by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan was forbidden by Guard officials from bringing her spouse, Karen Morgan, to a yellow-ribbon event in North Conway this weekend. Shaheen said the event is part of an official military reintegration program, designed to help returning soldiers and their families deal with the transition back to life in the United States.

The ruling came after the recent repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, under which gay soldiers could not reveal their sexual orientation.

In recent weeks, Shaheen's office raised concerns on behalf of Morgan with local Guard officials, who said they were hamstrung by federal regulations. Shaheen on Tuesday sent a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asking him to get involved.

'I think it's terrific that it's turned out positively,' Shaheen said Wednesday. 'I think it's another step along the way to make sure everybody is treated fairly and equally.'

Morgan was unavailable for comment.

Shaheen said the decision to exclude same-sex couples from the yellow ribbon event was based on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the extension of military benefits to same-sex couples, and on federal military regulations interpreting that law. Shaheen's letter to Panetta asked him to do all he can under the confines of the law to make same-sex couples and their families eligible for family centered programs like this weekend's event, and other family benefits available to straight married couples, such as joint duty assignments and military family housing.

Shaheen said the Guard was able to reverse its ruling because of language that allows Guard members to bring any one person of their choosing, regardless of relationship, to a yellow ribbon event.

'The fact is, she shouldn't have needed a special waiver and shouldn't have needed to raise this issue in the first place,' Shaheen said. 'We need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act in order to address all of the issue to make sure everybody is treated fairly.'

Shaheen is cosponsor of a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow same-sex couples whose marriage is recognized by a state, such as New Hampshire, to receive the same treatment under federal law as straight married couples. She said Wednesday that she understands that the political implications - same-sex marriage is opposed by many Republicans and social Conservatives - may make passage of her bill difficult.

'Of course, people didn't think we could have repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' she said. 'Ultimately, I think the American people want to see everybody treated equally.'

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