ACLU Appears in Court to Challenge Discriminatory State Trooper Benefits Policy

Surviving Partner of Missouri State Trooper Killed on Duty Excluded from Receiving Survivor Benefits

JEFFERSON CITY – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri will appear in court today to argue on behalf of Kelly Glossip, whose partner, Dennis Engelhard, was a state trooper killed in the line of duty. Missouri offers survivor benefits to spouses of troopers killed in the line of duty, but not to committed same-sex partners. 

“Dennis and I loved and supported each other for 15 years like any other committed couple. The only thing that stopped us from getting married is that Missouri wouldn’t allow it,” Glossip said. “It’s painfully unfair that the state that Dennis gave his life to protect would treat us as if we were total strangers and shut us out of the same protections offered to committed straight couples.” 

Englehard was killed while responding to an accident on Christmas Day in 2009. 

“Dennis and Kelly shared a home and cared for each other as any family would, even helping care for Kelly’s son from a previous marriage,” said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Ensuring that troopers’ families are taken care of in the event of a tragedy is a matter of basic fairness. Kelly deserves the same protection as any other bereaved spouse.” 

Spouses of Missouri State Highway Patrol employees are entitled to an annuity of 50 percent of the employee’s average salary if the employee is killed on duty. Since Engelhard’s death, Glossip has struggled with paying the mortgage on the home they both owned. While Glossip is not challenging the definition of marriage under Missouri law, he is challenging the benefits policy as a violation of his rights under the Missouri Constitution. 

“The only reason Kelly is excluded from this policy is because he shared his life with a man, rather than a woman,” said Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “The state may not have allowed Dennis and Kelly to be legally married, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t a family. Kelly is only seeking to be treated with the same dignity as any other partner who loses their spouse in the line of duty.” 

More information on this case can be found at: http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/glossip-v-missouri-department-transportation-and-highway-patrol-employees-retirement-sys

 

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