Kansas City, MO — Today Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Law Enforcement Gays and Lesbians (LEGAL) and four of its statewide and regional chapters in support of Kelly D. Glossip, the partner of deceased Missouri State Trooper Dennis Engelhard. Engelhard died in the line of duty and Glossip, his partner of 15 years, is being denied surviving spousal benefits by the Missouri Department of Transportation and Retirement System (MPERS).
“Kelly Glossip’s partner of 15 years was tragically killed while at work — there cannot be a gay exception to the family protections put in place for police and first responders,” said Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “Missouri has pledged to support its troopers’ loved ones if they die in the line of duty, and to deny Mr. Glossip the same treatment is not only discriminatory, it sends a disturbing message to its LGBT law enforcement officers.”
Missouri State Trooper Dennis Engelhard died in the line of duty on Christmas Day 2009. The Missouri State Highway Patrol provides an annuity payment through its retirement system to surviving spouses, allowing troopers to focus on serving the people of Missouri in dangerous situations without having to worry about what will happen to their families if they die. Engelhard and Glossip had been together for 15 years — they had exchanged rings, owned their home together, and shared all household expenses. By the time Glossip arrived at the hospital, Corporal Engelhard had already passed away. Mr. Glossip spent Christmas Day, which was also the twelfth anniversary of the day when the couple had exchanged rings, holding the hand of his deceased partner.
On December 2, 2010, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit in the Missouri Circuit Court of Cole County on behalf of Kelly Glossip to challenge MPERS’ denial of survivor benefits. The trial court granted the MPERS motion to dismiss the case on April 12, 2012, and the case is now on appeal to the Supreme Court of Missouri. In the friend-of-the-court brief filed today, Lambda Legal emphasizes the vital importance of survivor pension benefits to police officers. Gay and lesbian police officers in loving, committed relationships face the same concerns and risks as heterosexual police officers, and need such benefits to ensure that their families are taken care of should they die in the line of duty. The LGBT law enforcement organizations represented in the brief include LEGAL and four of its statewide and regional chapters. The chapters are: Chicago Lesbian and Gay Police Association/Gay Officers Action League (LGPA/GOAL Chicago; Florida Law Enforcement Gays and Lesbians (FL-LEGAL); Gay Peace Officers Association of Southern California (GPOA-SC); and, Michigan Gay Officers Action League (MI-GOAL).
For more information about the case, Glossip v. The Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees’ Retirement System, visit our case page at http://tinyurl.com/atu46m8