© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Gay partner of fallen Mo. state trooper sues for benefits

By Julie Bierach, St. Louis Public Radio

ST. LOUIS – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday in Cole County Circuit Court on behalf of Kelly Glossip, the gay partner of a Missouri State Highway patrol trooper hit and killed on Christmas Day last year. Glossip is suing for survivor benefits denied him because the men were prohibited from marrying.

Glossip said that for 15 years he and Corporal Dennis Engelhardt built a loving, committed life. They owned a home and shared financial responsibilities and parenting responsibilities for Glossip's teenage son. But because their relationship is not recognized by the state, Glossip was not entitled to survivor benefits.

Tony Rothert, legal director of ACLU Eastern Missouri, said that violates the Missouri constitution.

"This is not a challenge to Missouri's definition of marriage. And it's not's even a case demanding that Missouri develop some form of civil union," Rothert said, "We are simply asking for an alternate pathway to a benefit for those left behind when someone is killed in service to the state."

Under Missouri law, spouses of employees killed in the line of duty are entitled to a monthly benefit of 50 percent of the employee's average compensation.

"Dennis gave his life protecting the people of Missouri, yet the state treats his family as legal strangers," Glossip said.

Following Engelhard's death, Glossip says he fell into financial trouble and was in danger of losing his house. He did receive a benefit from the federal government and aid from Backstoppers.

A photo essay by Charles Ludeke about the same couple, "Rebuilding Strength"