Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gay man in Missouri denied spousal benefits

As I have previously stated, every gay couple that wants to marry should marry even if doing so requires traveling to another state.

In Missouri, the domestic partner of a state highway patrolman who was killed in the line of duty is not entitled to survivor benefits according to a 5-2 ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Dennis Engelhard was killed in December 2009. Kelly Glossip, who had been Engelhard's life partner since 1995, filed paperwork with the state's retirement system for survivor's benefits. The application required Glossip to submit copies of his driver's license, a death certificate and a marriage license.

Glossip submitted copies of his driver's license, Engelhard's death certificate and an affidavit stating they were never married but had been together since 1995. Predictably, the state denied Glossip's application because it lacked a marriage certificate. Glossip filed suit, not challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage, but challenging the law limiting survivor's benefits only to spouses and the law's definition of spouse as only a marriage between a man and a woman.

Post US v Windsor, this could have had an entirely different outcome if the couple had traveled to, say, Iowa and married. Aside from being the spousal  beneficiary of (presumably) a defined benefit pension plan, the court challenge would have been on equal protection grounds. If the state recognizes all other out-of-state marriages, what is the rationale for excluding gay couples? The government of Oregon recently concluded that recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages is not at odds with the state's constitutional ban on marriage equality.

I am not challenging Mr. Glossip's judgment. After all, in 2009 who knew that gay marriages would gain the portability that we have seen since Windsor? However, this serves as an example because now we do know.

Get hitched!
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