Dennis Engelhard, a gay Missouri Highway Patrol trooper, died on Christmas Day after exiting his car to wait with a driver involved in an accident. A passing SUV struck him on the highway. But that’s not where the pain ends. In fact, it’s just beginning, because Engelhard is survived by his partner of 15 years, Kelly Glossip, and their 17-year-old son Dennis (from Engelhard’s previous relationship), who are receiving nothing in the form of a pension, or even assistance from the usual slew of groups that care for the surviving spouses of troopers. And the Highway Patrol didn’t even mention them in relaying his death.
Above, Queerty family Jay and Brian Leffew share how this story hits them personally: Jay is a cop. But in California, where they reside, their relationship is recognized, and were Jay to be fatally harmed in the line of duty, Brian wouldn’t be left out in the cold. But with Glossip, the pair aren’t legally married, and thus the Highway Patrol — a state agency — can refuse any benefits and pension.
“I should have the same rights as any other spouse, as heterosexuals would have,” says Glossip. “And I just don’t understand why people are so bigoted.”
Backstoppers paid $5000 to Engelhard’s parents. The group says it didn’t know about Glossip’s and Engelhard’s relationship.
The Masters, a group dedicated to helping the families of fallen Missouri Highway Patrol troopers, says they are still reviewing the case.
And for their part, the Missouri Highway Patrol tells us some of Engelhard’s benefits will be paid out according to beneficiaries he listed. But a spokesperson says Glossip is not eligible for any benefits through Engelhard’s retirement pension because the two aren’t legally married in Missouri.