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Lesbian guardsman who fought DOMA dies of cancer

Morgan was plaintiff in litigation against anti-gay law

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Charlie Morgan, gay news, Washington Blade
Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan died of cancer Sunday morning (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan died of cancer Sunday morning (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A lesbian member of the New Hampshire National Guard who fought the Defense of Marriage Act while battling incurable cancer finally succumbed to the disease early Sunday morning.

Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan died at age 48 after fighting not only cancer, but working on behalf of LGBT rights as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against DOMA and an outspoken activist in favor of marriage equality. The LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN announced the news of her death on Sunday.

Calling Morgan a “courageous fighter,” Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, thanked those in a statement who had supported Morgan as well as her spouse Karen Morgan and daughter Casey Elena.

“She made an indelible mark on everyone she met with her integrity, her positive outlook, and her unflinching commitment to righting the wrongs visited upon gay and lesbian military families,” Robinson said. “The fight for full LGBT equality in this country is forever changed because Charlie Morgan took up the cause.”

In September 2011, Morgan was diagnosed with stage-four incurable breast cancer. After being first diagnosed with the disease in 2008 and undergoing a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, Morgan was declared cancer-free and was deployed to Kuwait, but was later informed her cancer had returned and had to undergo further treatment.

One of the service members plaintiffs in OutServe-SLDN’s litigation against DOMA known as McLaughlin v. Panetta, Morgan had met with staff of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in February 2012 to encourage him to discontinue House Republican defense of the anti-gay law.

During a Washington Blade interview following the meeting at the time, Morgan said she wasn’t afraid to die, but told Boehner’s staff she wanted DOMA stricken from the books to ensure upon her death her spouse would be able to receive pension benefits given to straight counterparts in the U.S. military. The anti-gay law prohibits those pension benefits from flowing to same-sex spouses of troops as well as Social Security death benefits.

“I’m very worried about the military survivor benefits for Karen if I don’t survive this bout with cancer,” Morgan told the Blade. “I explained to her that I wasn’t afraid to die, but I was worried that Karen would not receive the same spousal survivor benefits as our heterosexual counterparts.”

While DOMA prohibits gay service members from receiving health and pension benefits, the Pentagon could extend administratively at any time other partner benefits to gay troops, such as military IDs, joint duty assignments, housing and access to family programs. However, the Defense Department has taken no action.

Morgan publicly came out as a lesbian during an interview on MSNBC on Sept. 20, 2011 — the day that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was lifted — a law that had previously barred her from open service.

In addition to her efforts against DOMA, Morgan was among those who testified in Minneapolis, Minn, before the 15-member Democratic Party platform drafting committee in favor of including a marriage equality plank in the document. The panel ultimately decided to include the language in the platform.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), the first U.S. senator to call for marriage equality in the Democratic platform and co-sposnor of legislation to repeal DOMA, issued a statement upon Morgan’s death thanking the service member for her work.

“Charlie Morgan epitomized courage — in her military service, her fight for LGBT equality, and her battle with cancer,” Shaheen said. “She showed us how to live and to die with dignity. I am honored I got to know Charlie and my heart goes out to her wife Karen, her daughter Casey [Elena] and her entire family.”

Additionally, Morgan was selected to lead the Pledge of Allegiance during the inauguration ceremony on Jan. 3 for New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who was elected to office after campaigning on upholding the marriage equality law in her state.

In a statement, Hassan said she and her husband were “deeply saddened” to learn about Morgan’s death, but predicted her efforts against DOMA wouldn’t be in vain.

“A dedicated soldier, wife and mother, her service and sacrifice exemplify what makes America and New Hampshire strong.” Hassan said. “Her 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.”

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National

Survey shows 72% of Utah residents back same-sex marriage

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah said he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality

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The results of a poll run by the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Desert News found 72% of Utah’s residents agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as cis-gender marriages.

“For a state that less than 20 years ago passed laws and a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, there has been a seismic shift in opinion,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey also found that 23% of those surveyed disagreed, while 5% expressed that they don’t know.

The poll shows Utahns are aligned with the nation as a whole on the issue. A Gallup poll in May found 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage, a new high.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Desert News that he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality.

“Utah is a pro-family state, and we recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes. When we see loving, committed couples joining in matrimony, our natural impulse is to support and encourage that love. This gives me great hope for the future,” he said.

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Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

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The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Doctor, transgender spouse indicted for passing information to Russia

Jamie Lee Henry first active-duty Army officer to come out as trans

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Jamie Lee Henry and their spouse Anna Gabrielian (Photos from social media)

A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed down an indictment of a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, a doctor and major in the U.S. Army, with conspiracy and for the disclosure of individually identifiable health information related to their efforts to assist Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland in a press release stated Anna Gabrielian, 36, and her spouse, Jamie Lee Henry, 39, both of Rockville, Md., both of whom had secret clearances, were attempting to provide medical information about members of the military to the Russian government.

Gabrielian and Henry met with an individual they believed to be associated with the Russian government, but who was, in fact, an Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Agent.

Court documents indicate Gabrielian told the FBI agent posing as a Russian operative that she had previously reached out to the Russian Embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her spouses’ assistance.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Gabrielian told the FBI agent that, although Henry knew of Gabrielian’s interaction with the Russian Embassy, she never mentioned Henry’s name to the Russian Embassy.

In the narrative released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, on Aug. 17, 2022, Gabrielian met with the FBI at a hotel in Baltimore. During that meeting, Gabrielian told the FBI she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail. 

She proposed potential cover stories for her meeting with the “Russians” and stressed the need for “plausible deniability” in the event she was confronted by American authorities. Gabrielian also told the FBI that, as a military officer, Henry was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, because they had more helpful information, including how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and information about previous training provided by the U.S. military to Ukrainian military personnel. 

Henry identifies as a “transgender military physician” on their Twitter account.

Henry received public attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as trans.

Henry was at one point a member of SPARTA, the nation’s largest nonprofit representing actively-serving trans U.S. servicemembers. A spokesperson for SPARTA, in an emailed statement commenting on the announcement of the arrest and indictment of Henry and their spouse told the Washington Blade:

“Transgender people are as diverse as the societies to which they belong. One’s gender identity neither increases nor decreases a propensity towards alleged criminal activity.”

As stated in the indictment, Gabrielian is an anesthesiologist and worked at Medical Institution 1 in Baltimore.  

Henry, a major in the U.S. Army who held a secret-level security clearance, is Gabrielian’s spouse and a doctor. During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Womack Army Medical Center.

Gabrielian was scheduled to have initial appearance at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson. Henry is also expected to have an initial appearance today, although a time has not yet been set.

Full statement from SPARTA:

“SPARTA, a non-profit advocacy organization representing transgender Service members in the United States, is saddened to learn of the arrest and indictment of Jamie Lee Henry, an officer in the U.S. Army and a medical doctor.

SPARTA has long advocated for the inclusion and total equity for transgender persons throughout the United States uniformed services. Today, thousands are serving honorably and authentically at home stations worldwide.

The actions alleged in the indictment do not reflect Henry’s identity as transgender. Their alleged actions are those of an individual and should not be taken as a representation of transgender people broadly or transgender members of the military specifically.

All people in the United States are entitled to the same rights, including due process and the presumption of innocence in this case. SPARTA does not condone any actions alleged in the indictment and expects the process to play out fairly and equitably as it would for anyone accused of a crime.”

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