VIDEO: Missouri Supreme Court denies benefits to widower of police officer
November 01, 2013
When same-sex couples commit their lives to each other, they make several key promises to each other: To love each other and stand beside each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death forces them to part. For Kelly Glossip, this last promise - to stand beside your partner even in such trying times as a death - became a tragic reality on Christmas Day in December 2009. His partner of 15 years, Missouri State Highway Patrol corporal Dennis Engelhard, was struck by a vehicle while helping another driver on the shoulder of a highway in Eureka, Missouri.
Dennis Engelhard was killed in the line of duty, and when news of his death was announced, he was noted as single. Dennis' family tried to exclude Kelly from the funeral, refusing to discuss Dennis' time with Kelly and not allowing Kelly to inherit any of Dennis' personal items. Kelly Glossip, the man who had stood beside him for 15 years, was erased from the public record.
Since 2010, Kelly has been fighting to have his relationship with Dennis respected by the state of Missouri. He filed a lawsuit seeking the survivor benefits that different-sex spouses of public servants are entitled to in Missouri. Because Dennis was killed in the line of duty, Kelly should have been entitled to $28,000 per year to care for himself and for his son.
Yesterday, on October 31, 3013, after several years in court, the Missouri Supreme Court issued its ruling in Kelly's case. In a 5-2 decision, they declared that Kelly should not receive any of the survivor benefits. The ruling explained that survivor benefits are extended only to legally married spouses - and that because Kelly and Dennis were not married, Kelly was ineligible to receive these resources.
But Missouri is one of 36 states in the country where same-sex couples do not have the freedom to marry. In 2009, at the time of Dennis' death, same-sex couples could only marry in five states and the District of Columbia. This great injustice by the Missouri Supreme Court - and by the state of Missouri, for not extending the freedom to marry to loving, committed couples like Kelly and Dennis - underlines the importance of the freedom to marry and highlight why we need the freedom to marry nationwide.
Two years ago, Kelly shared his story with The Legal Stranger Project, who produced a beautiful and moving video about his struggles. Partly a tribute to Dennis and partly a demonstration of the real harms caused by Missouri's exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, the video should not be missed. Watch it here: