Executive Sessionby Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Posted on 2013-02-14
SHAHEEN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as if
in morning business.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Remembering Charlie Morgan Mrs. SHAHEEN. Madam President, today I rise with a heavy heart because our Nation has lost one of its outstanding citizens and many of us have lost a dear friend.
Charlie Morgan, chief warrant officer of the New Hampshire National Guard, passed away early Sunday morning with her wife Karen and their daughter Casey by her side. Chief Charlie Morgan was just 48 years old. For those of us who had the pleasure of knowing Charlie, it has been a difficult week. However, as I rise today, I take comfort in the opportunity I had to share part of Charlie's life and work.
Many know Charlie for the national attention she received over the last several years advocating on behalf of her fellow gay servicemembers and their families. However, first and foremost, Charlie was a soldier. She enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1982. After a brief period away, Charlie returned to service as a member of the Kentucky National Guard in 1992, 1 year before the now-repealed don't ask, don't tell policy became law.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Charlie returned for a third time, joining the 197th Fires Brigade of the New Hampshire National Guard, a tour that included a yearlong deployment in Kuwait.
In addition to the mental and emotional challenges of military service, Chief Warrant Officer Morgan shouldered the constant burden of keeping her life secret from her fellow soldiers. Married to her partner Karen in 2000, Charlie was unable to live openly under the military's don't ask, don't tell policy.
Immediately following the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, Charlie made national news as one of the first servicemembers to publicly confirm her homosexuality and shed light on many of the remaining inequalities faced by same-sex military families.
I first met Charlie in 2011. She contacted my office during her deployment in Kuwait when she learned that despite the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, her partner Karen of over 10 years would not be allowed to attend mandatory National Guard Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Programs upon her return. I was pleased to work with Secretary Panetta and the New Hampshire National Guard, which has been very supportive of Charlie, to ensure that she and her wife Karen would be able to participate in the program together.
However, as those of us who appreciated her determination understood, Charlie was not satisfied. She continued to vigorously pursue equal benefits for same-sex spouses, particularly survivors' benefits and compensation still denied under the Defense of Marriage Act. And this was not an abstract issue for Charlie. In 2011 she was diagnosed for a second time with breast cancer. Concerned for the future well-being of her family, Charlie took aim at DOMA by challenging its constitutionality in Federal court, and her case is set to be heard by the Supreme Court later this year.
Several days ago my office sent out an online condolence card to the Morgan family, and the response from that card has been overwhelming. In less than a week we received over 2,000 messages of support from citizens all across our country, and I would like to read just a couple of those this morning.
From Hobkinton, NH, we heard: Charlie is a hero to many of us. Thank you for making your lives public so others can live their lives privately in love.
From Oregon, we heard: Thinking of you in this time of loss. It is also a loss for our country, but she leaves a legacy that will carry on.
From Fulton, IL, we heard: Thank you so much, Charlie, for all you have done. You will not be forgotten, and your service, work, and legacy will live on. Those of us left behind will honor you by continuing on in this all-important fight for equality.
I hope Charlie Morgan knew how many lives she touched and how greatly we admired her efforts. I know that she will be sorely missed and that her example will continue to guide us well into the future.
With Charlie's memory in mind, I will soon be introducing the Charlie Morgan Act. This bill will end a number of restrictions on benefits for legal spouses of all military servicemembers and veterans regardless of their sexual orientation. Every individual who provides for our defense deserves the peace of mind that comes with knowing one's family will be taken care of should the worst happen. No one should ever again go through what Charlie and her family had to go through. I hope all of us in the Senate will take up this legislation and act quickly to address this issue. It is long overdue.
Madam President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Dakota.
Keystone XL Pipeline Project Mr. HOEVEN. Madam President, I rise today for the purpose of engaging in a colloquy with my distinguished colleagues on the matter of the Keystone XL Pipeline for 30 minutes.