Two weeks ago, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) neatly demonstrated the power of retail politics -- and at the same time brought to light a legal conflict that has made the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell a bumpy affair.
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Shaheen had intervened on behalf of a constituent named Charlie Morgan -- an openly gay Chief Warrant Officer in the New Hampshire National Guard -- who had just returned from a deployment in Kuwait, only to be forbidden by the military from bringing her spouse Karen to an event aimed at helping families deal with the transition back to life at home.
It's unthinkable that a straight, married service member would have faced this kind of obstacle. But though Don't Ask, Don't Tell had been stricken from the books, and Morgan was allowed to serve openly, the Defense of Marriage Act still allowed the New Hampshire National Guard to deny her spouse authorization to attend the so-called Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program.
Shaheen took Morgan's case straight to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the policy was quickly reversed -- the Morgans were allowed to attend Yellow Ribbon event earlier this month.
But the problem isn't limited to reintegration events or the New Hampshire National Guard. It's happening nationwide -- the ripples of an inherent tension between the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the continued existence of the Defense of Marriage Act. So advocates, politicians, and service members are handing megaphones to service members and their spouses who have suffered as a result of the conflict, to see the Defense of Marriage Act overturned by the courts or repealed by Congress.