The inhumanity of “protecting marriage”
January 30th, 2010
In 1995 Hootie and The Blowfish were on the radio, Waterworld was stinking up the movie theaters, and Tommy Lee married Pamela Anderson. It may not have been the best of years, but it was a good year for Kelly Glossip; that’s the year he met Dennis Engelhard.
Over the next 15 years the two men built a life together. They bought and decorated a house, joined a church, and helped raise Kelly’s son from a previous relationship.
And Dennis established a career in law enforcement, earning respect as a Missouri State Highway Patrolman. Even though Missouri is not a liberal state, the two lived openly, even attending social functions with Dennis’ coworkers.
But in 2004 the residents of Missouri decided that they needed to amend the state constitution to protect marriage from people like Kelly and Dennis. And in the process, they provided justification for treating them with contempt.
On Christmas Day, Dennis Engelhard was assisting at a minor accident when he was struck by a car which had lost control in the snow. He was killed. And at Glossip’s time of grief, his state did everything they could to make his life more miserable.
Although there was no confusion about the nature of their relationship, Glossip was denied Engelhard’s survivor pension benefits. And the trooper support organizations decided that they would treat Glossip as dismissively as they would “any other boyfriend” because he’s not a legal spouse (ignoring the fact that most of them had voted to deny Glossip any choice of being a legal spouse).
On the debut night of season nine of American Idol on Fox 2, St. Louis, Idol wanna-bes sang in an effort to raise money for true St. Louis heroes: the families of police and firefighters who’d given their lives in the line of duty. It was night one of the 16 week Backstoppers St. Louis Idol karaoke contest at Helen Fitzgerald’s restaurant and bar in Sunset Hills.
Backstoppers gives financial support to the families of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Tuesday nights contest had a very special significance: the entire evening was a tribute to Missouri State Trooper, Corporal Dennis Engelhard, 49, who gave his life in the line of duty in St. Louis County on Christmas Day.
Engelhard was working an accident on Interstate 44 when an approaching driver apparently hit a slick spot in the snow, went off the road, hit and killed Engelhard, who was standing near the trunk of his cruiser.
The highlight of the evening was a rendition of Danny Boy by 15 year old Ronnie Bass. People in the crowd teared up as he sang what has become something of anthem for police officers. Engelhard had no wife or children.
Backstoppers had already presented his parents with the first check to help them cover expenses related to his death.
Their contribution to Kelly? Nothing.
“The parents are the legal next of kin,” [BackStoppers director Ronald A.] Battelle said.
But it was the state of Missouri that really went out of its way to viciously erase Kelly Glossip from official existence. The department issued an obituary reporting that Engelhard was single and had no children. (StLToday.com)
Gov. Jay Nixon called on Missourians to pray for Engelhard’s family, who “lost a beloved son and brother.”
Neither [he nor his son] were formally recognized, Glossip said, at Engelhard’s funeral last month, attended by dozens of law enforcement officials in Engelhard’s hometown of Brookfield, Mo.
While policies that exclude long-term same-sex couples from financial compensation are disgustingly unfair, officials that erase their existence during a funeral are inhumane. This is deliberate callous cruelty was designed to celebrate Dennis Engelehard’s sacrifice for his fellow citizens and make police officers appear to be heroes while dismissing, ignoring, and erasing Kelly Glossip, the part of Dennis’ life that they find distasteful or embarrassing.
But no one displayed his contempt and an utter lack of empathy more than the man responsible for seeing that state employees are treated fairly:
The law would apply the same to a straight trooper with a boyfriend or girlfriend, said state Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains, chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Employee Retirement.
“I personally feel that a relationship should be between a man and a woman,” Franz said. “They still love each other and care about each other, but I don’t think we can change the law for that.”
In the recent testimony for Perry v. Schwarzenegger, supporters of Proposition 8 sought to argue that there really isn’t any animus towards gay couples but that society simply wants to protect the status and tradition of the definition of marriage.
I think we know that isn’t true in Missouri.