Missouri residents Kelly Glossip and Dennis Engelhard were together for 15 years, building a life together, owning a home together, raising a child together, even exchanging rings with each other. They were in every sense of the word a committed couple, even if the state of Missouri did not recognize their same-sex relationship.
Engelhard was a state trooper. On Christmas Day 2009, he was on duty in the city of Eureka, when he was struck by an out of control vehicle and killed. A sudden and tragic ending to the life of a dedicated cop, and a devoted partner.
Except when the State Police Department announced Engelhard's death, they did so by saying that Engelhard was single with no children. And that's because the Department, as well as the state of Missouri for that matter, didn't have to recognize Engelhard's relationship to Glossip. Missouri, after all, passed a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage in 2004, with a whopping 70 percent of the vote.
When state police officers are killed on duty in the state of Missouri, his or her spouse should be eligible for survivor benefits. But not same-sex partners. Even if those same-sex partners have been together longer than most of Newt Gingrich's marriages. Even if those same-sex partners are raising a family together. Even if those same-sex partners own a home, spend every holiday together, and fall asleep next to each other every night for their entire lives.
Kelly's and Dennis's story should serve as a wake-up call to the Missouri Highway Patrol, as well as the Missouri state legislature, that same-sex partners of state employees deserve to be eligible for survivor benefits. Send a message now that denying same-sex partners benefits that straight married couples get in Missouri is not only discriminatory, it's immoral and inhuman, too.