Dennis Engelhard (pictured, top), the Missouri state trooper killed last Christmas by a passing vehicle while offering aid to a highway motorist after an accident, would have seen his survivors receive a $28,000 annual death benefit payment. But because his domestic partner Kelly Glossip was not legally married to Engelhard, since Missouri’s constitution forbids it, he will not receive a penny. Even though they’ve been together for fifteen years. He’s suing.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Glossip claims the Highway Patrol’s policies discriminate against gays. Irrefutably, they do.
While the ACLU described Glossip’s case as part of a larger fight for gay rights — including the current battle on Capitol Hill over gays in the military — his lawsuit targets a provision of Missouri law that applies to state employees killed while on the job. The suit, filed in Jefferson City, specifically does not seek to overturn the state constitutional amendment approved by voters six years ago that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Instead, the suit argues that even though the 2004 vote prohibits gay marriage, it does not keep the state from offering domestic partner benefits. The pension system, the suit says, “categorically excludes same-sex domestic partners from valuable benefits provided to similarly situated heterosexual couples,” a violation, according to the suit, of the section of the state constitution that provides equal protection under the law.