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Kelly Glossip: ACLU Fights Missouri to Get Benefits for Same-Sex Spouse of Killed Trooper

Kelly Glossip 1.jpg
via aclu.org
Kelly Glossip
On Christmas day of 2009, Missouri State Trooper Dennis Engelhard was killed in the line of duty while responding to an accident -- leaving behind his long-time spouse Kelly Glossip.

Now, more than three years later, Glossip is still fighting to get basic "survivor benefits" that have been denied to him since he lost his partner of fifteen years -- because the state of Missouri doesn't recognize same-sex relationships. The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri will argue today at the Missouri Supreme Court that Glossip deserves the same benefits that the state gives to heterosexual partners.

"He lost his spouse and that's difficult enough," Tony Rothert, ACLU-EM legal director, tells Daily RFT. "But he has the added insult of...being treated like they were strangers by the State of Missouri."

Why are officials continuing to deny his benefits?

See also:
- Gay Missouri Trooper Killed in Line of Duty Leaves His Partner Without Benefits
- Kelly Glossip: Same-Sex Partner of Trooper Killed in Line of Duty Sues for Benefits
- Missouri Gives Gay Trooper Killed a Highway, Still Denies Benefits to His Partner

In Missouri, when state troopers are killed in the line of duty, the state provides "survivor benefits" for spouses in the form of an annuity of the late employee's salary.

But because the state doesn't recognize same-sex couples, Glossip hasn't been able to obtain any of these benefits since his spouse, a Highway Patrol corporal, died.

"Trooper Engelhard went to work on Christmas morning and didn't come back," says Rothert. "They were spouses -- there's no way to put it other than that. They were completely intertwined.... They mutually supported each other emotionally, financially and spiritually."

He adds, "It's been a very difficult case to work on, emotionally."

Kelly Glossip Dennis Engelhard.jpg
via aclu.org

After the accident, Glossip, with the help of the ACLU, tried to get these benefits without legal action -- but was denied at the administrative level. Next step was a petition to the Circuit Court of Cole County, where a judge dismissed the case. The subsequent appeal took the case to the Missouri Supreme Court, which is hearing oral arguments this morning.

This is the final step before the court will issue a decision, which is expected to come out in several months.

The ACLU's main argument, full brief below, is that the statutes that make marriage a requirement for access to benefits are unconstitutional as they've been applied in this case.

"If you're going to exclude a whole class of people from marrying, you can't then make benefits contingent on marriage," Rothert explains.

The ACLU's central goal is to obtain some recognition and relief for Glossip, he says, "to allow him to try and have a little bit of the life he and Dennis built together given back to him."

Still, Rothert says, "We hope the case highlights the current inequity in the way state law treats same-sex couples."

Continue for more commentary from the ACLU and the full legal briefs in this case.


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16 comments
Rachel Shepard
Rachel Shepard

Definitely. And this above comment is absolutely ignorant.

Soy Sauce Hoffmann
Soy Sauce Hoffmann

Call me old fashioned, but I don't think highway robbers (or their family members) should be given a free ride for life on everybody else's dime.

Tammie Hutto Egloff
Tammie Hutto Egloff

Yes. This irks me so much. I always hear that it's ok that same sex couples cannot get married because they still have "partnerships" and will still receive the same treatment and rights. This is a perfect example of a case that is NOT equal because same-sex marriage is not allowed in MO.

Jennifer Krieger
Jennifer Krieger

David, that hardly makes sense since straight couples have the option to marry here while gay couples do not. Many gay couples would marry if they could. The best way to fix the problem is to legalize gay marriage.

Bambi Zj Baker
Bambi Zj Baker

They get taxed just like the rest of the population and that system is for everyone in their time of need so yes benefits should be rewarded

David B Fowler
David B Fowler

As soon as straight partners not married are allowed.

Adam Thenhaus
Adam Thenhaus

Well that is 90% of the reason same-sex marriage is being fought so hard for so yes.

Jason Goad
Jason Goad

I think if a person works hard and earns their benfits , it shouldn't matter who their partner is! They deserve the same treatment for their time and effort. Same as a traditional married couple, a family is a commitment.

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

I think it's an embarrassment that Missouri still has not joined the 21rst century.

Vicky Treffert
Vicky Treffert

Yes they should. I agree w/Robert West. Why is gov't. interferring?

Lynn Pevey
Lynn Pevey

If they were married then yes. Doesn't matter if it's man/woman, woman/woman, or man/man.

Robert A. West
Robert A. West

The government should not be in the business of granting marriages. Leave that to ritualistic institutions, and let the government preside over civil unions (which should be available to all couples regardless of sexual preference).

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