ST. LOUIS (AP) — Kelly Glossip and Dennis Engelhard shared love, a life together for 15 years and a modest ranch home in Robertsville.
But in a state that doesn’t recognize gay marriage, the two men didn’t have a legal document that may have entitled Glossip to Engelhard’s state pension.
Cpl. Engelhard, a 49-year-old Missouri State Highway patrolman, was hit and killed by a vehicle on Christmas Day while he investigated an accident on Interstate 44 in Eureka. Glossip, 43, has no legal right to Engelhard’s pension, though he was named as beneficiary on other assets.
The patrol says state law allows only a spouse or eligible dependent to claim an officer’s pension.
“He was a great officer and doing his job and protecting the citizens of Missouri up to the day he was struck and killed,” Lt. John Hotz said. “Missouri statute spells out who will benefit from retirement. It’s not determined by the Highway Patrol.”
Glossip is no activist, but he says he and Engelhard were upfront about their relationship because it was important to show they were “regular, everyday people.” And Missouri, he says, needs a civil union law that would confer to gay couples the same rights enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.
“It’s so unfair not to have equal rights,” he said.
Back problems have left Glossip on medical leave from his job in patient billing at a suburban St. Louis firm and Engelhard was the primary breadwinner. Glossip now wonders how he’ll pay the mortgage and other bills, and support a teenage son from a previous marriage.
Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, where the two were longtime parishioners, is collecting money for a fund set up at U.S. Bank, and is holding a Eucharist service in Engelhard’s honor.
Backstoppers, which supports families of public safety workers killed in the line of duty, gave Engelhard’s parents $5,000, said Chief Ron Battelle, the group’s president. He said The Masters, another charitable organization that helps families of troopers who have been killed, is handling this case. Masters board members could not be reached for comment.
The ranch house shared by the couple was in both names, but the rights of survivorship are not clear in the title, said A.J. Bockelman, executive director of Missouri PROMO. He said Engelhard’s family is helping with some of the bills.
“There are lots of open-ended questions, and it’s going to take a month or so to wade through the documents,” he said. “It really highlights the need for better protection for gay and lesbian couples. Same-sex couples (in Missouri) are not afforded any benefits or breaks in the law.”
In August 2004, Missouri adopted a constitutional provision restricting same-sex marriage, and does not recognize it. Jackson County and the cities of St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia, however, allow gay couples to register as domestic partners, granting such rights as visitation at a hospital or jail.
Bockelman believes it’s unlikely Missouri law would be overturned and says federal law provides the best hope for changing the state’s status quo.
Kerry Messer, founder and president of conservative Missouri Family Network, said that even in the case of unmarried heterosexual couples, rights defer to blood relatives first.
“Common law marriage doesn’t exist in Missouri for a very good reason,” he said. “It throws other laws into a tailspin and muddies every other policy. The state says ‘get married or live with the status