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A Christmas Remembrance

A Christmas Remembrance

Reposted from an Op-Ed article by Kelly Glossip on the Advocate.com

“Kelly and Dennis: Until Death Do Us Part” is one of the stories documented by the Legal Stranger Project

Two Christmases ago, I lost the love of my life, Missouri State Highway Patrol corporal Dennis Engelhard. For 15 years, Dennis and I supported each other like any other committed, married couple. We were embraced by our church and our community. The only thing that stopped us from getting married was that Missouri law would not allow it. We hoped to see the day when Missouri would join other states across the country in granting us the freedom to marry. Tragically, we never had that chance.

Dennis left for his shift on Christmas morning, kissed me goodbye, and said that he loved me. I said, “Merry Christmas. I love you too.” It was the last time we would ever speak. He was supposed to be home at 11 a.m. Instead, I received a call from his lieutenant. Dennis had been in an accident, struck by a car while attending to a highway stop in the snow. By the time I reached Dennis’s bedside, he was gone. I held his hand, surrounded by other state troopers, who all wept with me.

In the two years since Dennis has been gone, I have watched with joy as people across the country have been granted the ability to marry the one they love or achieve legal protections that ensure that they will be able to care for their families. But as proud as I am of these developments, my heart breaks as well, because Dennis and I were not given the chance to take care of each other should the unthinkable occur.

Spouses and partners of those who do the kind of job Dennis did know that danger is part of the equation, but married couples can depend on the Highway Patrol to extend benefits to widows to help them get by. But because Dennis and I did not have the ability to become legal spouses, we were excluded from these benefits. I struggled with medical issues even before Dennis’s death, and his income was a tremendous help in ensuring that we both received the care we needed. Since he’s been gone, the emotional and financial toll of losing my partner in life has been devastating.

There were days after Dennis’s death that were some of the loneliest and most bewildering I have ever known. Neither I nor my son, who regarded Dennis as a stepfather, were mentioned in Dennis’s obituary, which just said that Dennis was single. When the governor called for the flags to be lowered to half-staff across the state, he asked the people of Missouri to pray for Dennis’s parents and sister, who had lost a “son and brother.”  Those moments only served to drive home the fact that the state that Dennis gave his life for did not recognize the life and family he built with me for 15 years.

As I face another Christmas, I continue to honor Dennis’s memory and defend the integrity of our family. For the past year, I have worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the discriminatory benefits policy and ensure that no family has to endure this kind of suffering ever again.

It is profoundly wrong for the state to prevent families from taking care of each other. This Christmas, I ask for the same thing I have asked for since that terrible day two years ago. I am asking for the same dignity for my family that is given to any other Highway Patrol family in their time of need.

Kelly Glossip is suing under the Missouri constitution to recover the same survivor benefits that would have been provided to an opposite-sex spouse. Kelly is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, the ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri, and the law firm SNR Denton.

  1. Kelli Mills
    Kelli Mills12-25-2011

    Same sex marriages should not ever, now or in the futhre be recognized anywhere. Simply put, it is a disgrace and is making a mockery of real marriages.

    Asking for “survivor” benefits is wrong.

    I am sorry he is dead, but truly you were nothing more than two men living together. Perhaps it’s time to give up a losing battle and take care of yourself and not expect the Government to.

    • Katherine
      Katherine12-29-2011

      Kelli,
      I am assuming your not widowed and I know Kelly personally. I am a widow and I lost my fiance in a hit and run car accident and I do not receive survivors benefits because I was not legally married to Ed. You do not understand the struggles we face financially as we are now stuck with the fiancial burdens, the debt we created together and paid together and going from two incomes down to one and in some cases no income. Kelly’s feelings of loss is no different frome mines or another widow who was legally ‘married’. I am sorry your so ignorant at the fact Kelly is fighting for what is right, just because you do not agree does not mean we all have to follow your thinking, but then again most of the world is ignorant about the harsh reality of being widowed at a young age.

    • Lisa Popovitch
      Lisa Popovitch12-29-2011

      You really had to post that ignorant cruel comment? Gay marriage is real marriage. Love and commitment is real. Heterosexuals do not have the corner on that market. If there is any justice it will be legal everywhere. Your sense of entitlement makes me sick

    • DMFC
      DMFC12-29-2011

      Oh Kelli, what is a real marriage? A couple who love each other, are committed to each other and wish for a formal and legal recognition. Everyday in Las Vegas, drunken spur of the moment couples make a mockery of real marriage.
      If I were to remove your health benefits (because you will now have to take care of yourself and not expect the Government to) you would stand up and complain about it’s unjustness as you are a law abiding citizen who pays their taxes! So are Dennis and Kelly, what makes them second class and not able to deserve the same rights?

    • Andy Anderson
      Andy Anderson12-29-2011

      Dear Kelli
      Your comment does you absolutely no credit whatsoever! It may make you feel better to post something nasty and vicious about something you don’t personally like but your action just shows what little respect you have for other people.
      It would be SO easy to sit here and type something abusive about you, but quite honestly, you aren’t worth it!! I hate what you say for the profundity of its total lack of Christian charity. Do I hate you? Well, no I don’t …. I simply pity you!!!

    • Paula Tamburro
      Paula Tamburro12-29-2011

      What a terrible thing to say. Kelly and I are about the same time out in widowhood, and his pain is just as real as mine and all of my widow brothers and sisters, including the ones who did not quite make it to the alter because their loved ones died before they got to, or someone made a rule that said they couldn’t. Nothing is as horrible as this pain. You must not know what it feels like, as you have not walked in these ugly, painful shoes. The only problem is once you have tried these shoes on, you can never take them off again.

    • Tony
      Tony12-31-2011

      Malicious comments like Kelli’s are painful to read, but they do clarify that there are two sides to these issues. One side is guided by hate and selfishness, which Kelli personifies. The other by compassion. I hope Kelli is only speaking out of her pain and will become compassionate in the new year. My sincere belief is that most Americans will choose to honor love and commitment.

  2. Candace M
    Candace M12-29-2011

    Kelli, I’m so sorry you are so ignorant. It is a disgrace to humanity and mockery of compassion.

  3. Jen-x
    Jen-x12-29-2011

    I think gay marriage is stronger than any heterosexual marriage. People should be allowed to love who ever they choose. Those that disagree have never experienced love themselves, and are just jealous of what they can not have.

  4. Faith
    Faith12-29-2011

    Kelli,
    As a young widow, I can tell you that there is nothing more painful than for someone to tarnish the memory, the relationship, the love that was shared. Kelly and Dennis were married. Maybe not legally, but in every other sense of the word. Please find compassion and understanding within so that you can stop sharing your ignorance and hatred with others. I am sorry you are so limited in your thinking to be unable to honor Kelly and Dennis and the marriage that they shared.
    I will pray for you,
    Faith

  5. Michelle Richardson
    Michelle Richardson12-29-2011

    Kelli,
    Not only were your words hurtful and misguided, but they were posted on the second anniversary of Dennis’s death. You obviously have no idea how painful death dates are, especially when they fall on “special” days like Christmas. There was a time in the not too distant past when MY marriage would not have been legal because I married a black man and I am white. Our love was no less intense and our marriage was no less real because of our race. Unfortunately we had less than 4 years together before he passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. I am still reeling from that loss, and will never be the same.

    As for making a mockery out of marriage, the Kim Kardashians and the Kobe Bryants of the world do that already….
    Kelly and Dennis lived in a loving, committed, monogamous relationship for 15 years, and still would if Dennis had not tragically lost his life that day. Shame on you, Kelli Mills.

  6. Kelli Mills
    Kelli Mills12-30-2011

    All, actually I am a widow. 2 1/2 years out. Besides the $255 I received, I am in my own. Maybe I will start a crusade and start begging for survivor benefits too!!!

  7. Kelly Glossip
    Kelly Glossip12-30-2011

    Kelli,

    I’m sorry for your loss. Perhaps your anger towards me is from your anger of having losing your spouse.

    The benefits that I’m perusing are benefits that Dennis paid from his paycheck and not from the taxpayers. The money that was set a side for Missouri State Highway Patrol Troopers, which Dennis paid into, will just sit there for no one to collect.

    I have to be honest when I read your comment it felt like someone had taken a knife and twisted it in my back, especially since it was Christmas Day. As a widow, you know how hard it is to lose your best friend.

    We had been together a total of 15 years. We had exchanged wedding rings and vows back in Christmas 1997. So not only did I lose the love of my life on Christmas Day 2009, it was also our anniversary. The happiest time I ever had was the Christmas Eve before his death. Dennis, I and Zachary (our son) had such a loving time together. It wasn’t the gifts that we gave each other, it was having our family there.

    We were much more than just two men living together. We were a family.

    We paid our taxes. We were very active in our church, Christ Cathedral Church in St Louis. We read our Bible daily and said our prayers using our rosary. We raised our son showing him what love was by example. Dennis told me every single day “I love you. Your the man of my dreams. Your my one and only.”

    I was just as much a husband to Dennis as you were a wife to your husband. I’ve never met you and you have never met me, so please do not judge me.

    My heart does hurt for you and I pray that you will learn to live with the pain of your loss.

    Peace,
    Kelly Glossip

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