Kelly Glossip, seated, and Dennis Engelhard pose for a portrait together. Engelhard, who worked as a Missouri State Highway Patrolman, was killed in the line of duty.
ROBERTSVILLE — 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 would be entitled to lifetime survivor's benefits from the state pension system — more than $28,000 a year.
But neither the state Highway Patrol pension system nor Missouri law recognizes domestic partners.
A fraternal organization that provides benefits to the families of troopers killed in the line of duty is also unsure if it will help Engelhard's partner.
Gay marriage activists say the death of Engelhard — hailed by the governor for making the "ultimate sacrifice in fulfilling his duty" — provides a poignant example of the need for greater rights for same-sex couples.
Others say that domestic partners should not receive any more recognition than unmarried partners of heterosexual troopers, who would not be eligible for survivor pension benefits either.
Either way, while Engelhard's partner is eligible for other benefits — possibly including a significant payment from the U.S. Justice Department — he is unlikely to receive any from the state of Missouri, which in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as between a man and a woman.
"The partner, plain and simple, is out of luck," said state Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, one of a few openly gay Missouri state legislators. "I'm outraged that that's the situation, but it's the status of the law."
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