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Same-Sex Partner of Patrolman Killed on Duty Denied Survivor Benefits

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The life partner of a Missouri State Highway Patrolman killed in the line of duty will not receive survivor benefits after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against the appeal.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The life partner of a Missouri State Highway Patrolman killed in the line of duty will not receive survivor benefits after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against the appeal.

On Tuesday, Oct. 29, the Missouri Supreme court ruled that since Kelly Glossip was not legally married to Capt. Dennis Engelhard, Glossip is not entitled to Engelhard’s benefits.

Engelhard died on Christmas day in 2005 after he was struck and killed by a car that lost control on the icy roads. Engelhard was assisting a stranded motorist at the time.

His partner of 15 years, Kelly Glossip, filed suit after he was denied survivor benefits.  By law, those benefits are limited to a surviving spouse.

Glossip argued that the law was discriminatory because Missouri state law also forbids same-sex marriage. He also claims it is an unconstitutional special law.

The court rejected these claims.

In a 5-2 opinion, the court ruled that the law Glossip was challenging discriminated on the basis of marriage, not sexual orientation.

"Glossip was denied ssurvivor benefits because he and the patrolman were not married, not because of his sexual orientation," the ruling document stated. "If Glossip
and the patrolman had been of different sexes, Glossip would have still been denied benefits no matter how long or close their relationship had been. The result cannot be any different here simply because Glossip and the patrolman were of the same sex. The statute discriminates solely on the basis of marital status, not sexual orientation.

In a statement PROMO of St. Louis, a statewide LGBT advocacy, emphasized disappointment in the ruling.

“The Missouri Supreme Court decided on narrow grounds to deny survivor benefits because Kelly Glossip and Cpl. Dennis Englehard were not married in a jurisdiction where marriage is legally recognized,” says the statement. “The Supreme Court ruling was a disappointment for Kelly Glossip and their son. The ruling denies a true recognition for the commitment of the couple and their family. They exchanged rings on Christmas Day, several years before the passing of Engelhard.”

A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO, says the opinion offered by the court is shameful.

"With the wave of lawsuits and marriage cases going forward around the country, this statement is an embarrassment to justice, equality, and will be go down in history as a blemish,” says Bockelman. “Make no mistake, equality and justice will prevail, and the fight will continue."

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