Glossip v.The Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees' Retirement System
Missouri State Trooper Dennis Engelhard died in the line of duty on Christmas Day 2009. The Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees’ Retirement System (MPERS) provides an annuity payment to surviving spouses, but specifically excludes the partners of lesbian and gay officers from this benefit.
Corporal Engelhard and his partner Kelly 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, Engelhard had already passed away. Glossip spent Christmas Day, which was also the 12th anniversary of the date when the couple 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 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, 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 Law Enforcement Gays and Lesbians (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).
- December 2009 Missouri State Trooper Dennis Engelhard dies in the line of duty on Christmas Day.
- December 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.
- April 2012 The trial court grants MPERS’ motion to dismiss the suit, ACLU Appeals to Supreme Court of Missouri.
- November 2012 Lambda Legal files Amicus Brief on behalf of national and international chapters of LGBT law enforcement organizations emphasizing the importance of survivor pension benefits.
Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney
Juliet A. Cox and M. Courtney Koger of Kutak Rock LLP, Kansas City, Missouri.