Charlie Morgan, gay soldier who sought benefits for wife

Charlie Morgan was a chief warrant officer in the New Hampshire Army National Guard
2011 ap file
Charlie Morgan was a chief warrant officer in the New Hampshire Army National Guard

CONCORD, N.H. — Charlie Morgan, a chief warrant officer in the New Hampshire Army National Guard who fought to repeal the federal law that bars her wife from receiving benefits to help care for their daughter, died Sunday. She was 48.

Ms. Morgan, who had breast cancer, died at a hospice in Dover, said a spokesman for Governor ­Maggie Hassan.

Ms. Morgan, of New Durham, was a nationally recognized advocate in the effort to repeal the ­Defense of Marriage Act. She was a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit in 2011 saying the act violated her constitutional rights.


Under the federal act, the Pentagon is required to ignore same-sex marriages, which are legal in several states, including New Hampshire. Ms. Morgan, after finding out she had cancer, was worried that her spouse and their daughter would not receive military, Social Security, and other benefits if she died.

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‘‘She deserves the same benefits as any other spouse,’’ Ms. Morgan said of her wife, Karen, in 2011 at the first national convention of gay military personnel on active duty. ‘‘She went through the same stress, fear, and concern during my deployment as any other spouse,’’ Ms. Morgan said.

Shortly before that, Ms. Morgan came out on national television in 2011 on the day the military’s ‘‘don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy was repealed.

On Monday, a Department of Defense memo detailed a number of benefits that will be extended to same-sex partners of service members, including identification cards that will provide access to commissaries and other services but not some housing benefits. It appears the additional benefits don’t apply in Ms. Morgan’s case because they would not be retroactive.

In February 2012, Ms. Morgan visited Capitol Hill to meet with the staff of House Speaker John Boehner to tell her story.


She said her breast cancer was diagnosed in 2008, and she underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. She was declared cancer-free in 2010 and was deployed to Kuwait for one year. She ­returned home to her wife and then-4-year-old daughter. But she also learned that the cancer had ­returned.

In 2012, the Morgans went to Minneapolis to testify before the Democratic Party’s platform committee in support of the freedom to marry.

Ms. Morgan led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance at Hassan’s inauguration on Jan. 3. Hassan said Ms. Morgan’s fight for equality will outlive her fight against cancer.

‘‘We can and should honor Charlie’s legacy by continuing her fight to ensure that all families are treated equally by the state of New Hampshire and by the federal government,’’ Hassan said in a statement.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said Ms. Morgan ‘‘epitomized courage in her military service, her fight for LGBT equality, and her battle with cancer.”