JEFFERSON CITY The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments
Wednesday morning in a case that could allow same-sex partners of
state employees to receive death benefits from a state pension
Currently, such benefits are limited to surviving married spouses
and dependent children. That excludes gay and lesbian couples
because Missouris constitution defines marriage as between a man and
a woman only.
Contesting the employee benefits laws constitutionality is Kelly
Glossip, who was in a relationship for nearly 15 years with Missouri
Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard.
Engelhard was killed in the line of duty on Christmas Day 2009.
He was helping a motorist when he was hit by a car that had lost
control on an icy Interstate 44 in Eureka.
Glossips attorney, Maurice B. Graham of St. Louis, told the court
that the relationship Engelhard and Glossip shared was almost
synonymous with opposite-sex, husband and wife relationships.
The couple owned a home together in Franklin County and had joint
checking and savings accounts. They were rearing Glossips son.
Graham argued that the 2001 law spelling out that only opposite-
sex spouses are eligible for death benefits sets up a special
category based on sexual orientation.
Legislators were making it clear that gay people in a committed
relationship were not in any circumstance going to get these death
benefits, Graham said.
The lawyer for the Missouri Department of Transportation and
Highway Patrol Employees Retirement System argued that the pension
law provides support for those most likely to be dependent opposite-
sex spouses and children and does not violate the equal protection
clause of the constitution.
Nationally and in Missouri, statistics show that both partners in
same-sex couples are more likely to be employed, compared with
spouses who are married, said Assistant Attorney General James R.
This is not a special law, Ward said. Its open-ended because the
class as described under the statute is for spouses.
Interjected Supreme Court Judge Laura Denvir Stith: But if youre
gay, you cannot marry.
The state contends that the law limiting death benefits is
related to a legitimate government interest: making objective
decisions about beneficiaries and controlling costs. Given those
factors, the court shouldnt substitute its judgment for the
Legislatures decision, the states brief says.
Most of the judges questions during the arguments focused on
whether laws dealing with sexual orientation should trigger
heightened scrutiny by the court to enforce the constitutions
guarantee of equal protection. …