The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

National News

July 23, 2013

Missouri court seeks more input on gay death benefits

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A U.S. Supreme Court decision about federal benefits for gay couples has prompted the Missouri Supreme Court to take a second look at a pending case involving a deceased state trooper.

The state’s high court heard arguments in February on a challenge to a Missouri law that denied survivor benefits to Kelly Glossip, the same-sex partner of Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard, who died in the line of duty in 2009.

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that that barred legally married same-sex couples from receiving benefits from the federal government.

The Missouri Supreme Court now has asked attorneys involved in Glossip’s case to submit additional written arguments in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Attorneys for Glossip did so last week. State attorneys have until next Monday to file additional arguments, and Glossip’s attorneys have an additional week after that to file a response.

It’s unclear when the Missouri Supreme Court will rule on the case.

Glossip contends that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision supports his claim that Missouri’s law regarding survivor benefits violates the equal-protection clause of the state constitution.

Missouri law entitles surviving spouses of Highway Patrol officers killed in the line of duty to an annuity. Glossip did not receive the benefit because he could not legally be married to Engelhard under a Missouri law and constitutional provision that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

His lawsuit seeking the survivor’s benefit initially was dismissed in Cole County Circuit Court before being appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.

Although the recent U.S. Supreme Court case dealt with federal benefits denied to married same-sex couples, Glossip’s attorneys contend in their recent court filing that there is a similar discriminatory principle in Missouri’s law that denies benefits to same-sex couples who are legally unable to marry in Missouri.

Glossip is represented by St. Louis attorney Maurice Graham and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Their recent Missouri court filings state that the U.S. Supreme Court — a day after ruling on the federal benefits law — declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that an Arizona law limiting employment benefits to spouses had a discriminatory effect because state law prohibits same-sex couples from marrying.

Glossip’s attorneys said a federal district court in Michigan also cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling when blocking a Michigan law that barred employment benefits to people living with public employees unless they were married, a dependent or eligible for inheritance.

 

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