The recent death of a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper is once again putting the rights of same-sex couples under scrutiny.
When Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard was killed in a Christmas Day traffic accident near Eureka, the agency described him as single with no children.
Gov. Jay Nixon called on Missourians to pray for Engelhard’s family, who “lost a beloved son and brother.”
Neither statement tells the whole story.
Engelhard, hit by a car that lost control in the snow, was gay. He left behind a partner of nearly 15 years who was not mentioned in his obituary or official information released by the Highway Patrol, although members of the agency knew about his sexual orientation.
If Engelhard had been married, his spouse — Kelly Glossip — would be entitled to lifetime survivor’s benefits from the state pension system, more than $28,000 a year.
Glossip, 43, said he and Engelhard were together for nearly 15 years, and has been ignored when it comes to the agencies that normally reach out to the families of fallen law enforcement officers.
“He was my true love and he always referred to me as his one and only true love and the man of his dreams,” Glossip said. “We were hopelessly in love with each other.”
The Justice Department might pay a large benefit to Engelhard’s partner, in this case around $300,000- in the case of . Unlike other benefits available through state and local groups, the Justice Department benefits when state troopers who die in the line of duty are available to anyone who is married to or can prove that they were the long time partner for the deceased.
But Glossip won’t receive similar payments from Missouri.
Under the rules of the state pension system that covers the Missouri Highway Patrol and Department of Transportation workers, if a trooper dies in the line of duty, his or her spouse is eligible for lifetime survivor benefits.
Missouri pension law is clear about defining a spouse, recognizing only a marriage between a man and a woman.
Officials say they’ve never paid benefits to long-term partners of heterosexual troopers either.