Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Missouri: The Show Me Hate State
Dennis Engelhard was a state trooper in Missouri. He was also an openly gay man, who, with his partner, Kelly Glossip, created a life together over the last fifteen years, exchanging rings in a commitment ceremony, and raising a child together. Seems like a loving committed family, doesn't it? Even if Missouri never recognized them as such.
But last Christmas Day, Dennis Engelhard was on duty in the city of Eureka, when he was struck by an out of control vehicle and killed. And how did the State Police Department handle that announcement of his tragic death? They said he was a single man with no children.
They completely ignored his partner and his child because, by a whopping 70% of the vote, Missourians decided they don't have to recognize Engelhard and Glossip's relationship. And, of course, with that seventy-percent of the voters advocating hate, they also made it impossible for Kelly Glossip to be eligible for survivor benefits. Same-sex partners don't exist in Missouri, even ones who've been together longer than most of Newt Gingrich's marriages; even if those same-sex partners are raising a child together, own a home together, build a life together, live together, love together.
Now Kelly Glossip, with the help of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, is fighting back. He filed a lawsuit this week challenging the Missouri Patrol Employees' Retirement Union's refusal to grant him survivor benefits from his partner's death, saying, "Dennis and I loved each other and lived in a committed relationship for 15 years. We depended on each other emotionally and financially in our life together like any other committed couple. We exchanged rings and would have married in Missouri if the state didn't exclude us from marriage. I'm just seeking the same financial protections the state provides to heterosexual couples. It is hard enough coping with the grief of losing Dennis. It is even more painful to have the state treat Dennis and me as though we were total strangers."
Remember, according to the State Police Department, Dennis Engelhard was single, and childless.
So, how does this happen?
Well, let's lay some blame at the feet of the National Organization for Marriage [NOM] who work overtime trying to prove that same-sex relationships are less valuable than heterosexual relationships.
But let's also spread some of the blame to religious institutions, like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who believe that same-sex couples aren't compatible in the same way as a woman and a man.
And let's blame our politicians and lawmakers who use the fear of god to convince people that allowing same-sex couples the right to marry will somehow destroy "traditional" marriage--what that is.
This is why I fight for marriage, marriage, because we all deserve equality, in our lives as couples together, and in the event that one of us dies. We deserve to be respected for our relationships, not belittled, and definitely not to be made invisible.
Missouri can pretend that Dennis Engelhard didn't love Kelly Glossip, wasn't committed to Kelly Glossip, but that's all it is, pretense.