A lesbian National Guardsman and her wife will testify this weekend before the Democratic Party Platform Drafting Committee, urging Democrats to take an official stand on same-sex marriage in the party platform this election.
Charlie Morgan, a chief warrant officer fighting stage-four breast cancer, and her wife, Karen, were married in New Hampshire in 2011, but Karen isn't eligible for the same federal benefits as her straight, married counterparts because the Defense of Marriage Act prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states where they are legal. Karen currently has no health insurance, and if Morgan were to die, she would not receive the survivors benefits she needs to take care of their 5-year-old daughter. In all, lawyers estimate the couple is missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost lifetime benefits. But it can be the small indignities that hurt most, Karen said.
When the couple goes grocery shopping at the commissary, a chain of discount grocery stores for military personnel, Karen has to wait outside. When they tried to get a military id card, Karen was rejected from the system, and when the family goes to the movies, Charlie and their daughter get a military discount, while Karen pays full price.
"It's a very small instance but it separates me from my family," Karen told The Huffington Post. "We live in a place where we are supported by the community and we feel like individuals reach out frequently to support us, but the system has not kept pace."
A growing number of signs indicates that the Democratic party may be ready to shift on same-sex marriage. Last year the Obama administration declared it would no longer defend DOMA in the courts. Then, after the president announced in an interview on ABC News that he personally supports gay marriage, a group of California Democrats restarted the push to include support for it in the party platform. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is following suit. Last week, she told The Huffington Post, "I think that we will have a plank in the platform that reflects the president's position on marriage equality."
The Morgans will be testifying alongside Freedom to Marry national director Marc Solomon. Although Freedom to Marry, a national advocacy group, has garnered some support among Democrats -- including 22 Democratic senators and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- many Democrats are still silent on the issue.
In addition to testifying before the Democratic Party Platform Drafting Committee, the Morgans are among a group of plaintiffs who filed suit last year, arguing that DOMA was unconstitutional. As more states have legalized same-sex marriage, more than a dozen suits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of the federal law. Legal experts expect a ruling from the Supreme Court on one or several of theses suits as early as next spring
Karen is excited about this weekend's testimony, and the chance that the party might amend their platform to include support for same-sex marriage.
"I think it's another step forward, just like the president announcing his support," she said. "When leadership makes a statement, it can make other people more comfortable in their beliefs that we should all be equal."
This story has been updated to reflect that Freedom to Marry will also be testifying before the Democratic Party Platform Drafting Committee.