The Missouri Supreme Court, sitting en banc, issued a decision yesterday that, on its face, seems like a defeat for proponents of same-sex marriage in that state. In Glossip v. Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees’ Retirement System, the state’s highest court upheld a state statute that requires a person be married to a highway patrol employee in order to receive benefits after the employee’s death. Although the Missouri constitution prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages, the plaintiff did not challenge that provision (so the court did not rule on that).
The facts of the case are fairly straightforward. Dennis Engelhard and Kelly Glossip, both men, were in a domestic partnership and “held [themselves] out to [their] families and [their] community as a couple in a committed, marital relationship.” Engelhard was a state highway patrolman and was killed in the line of duty. Glossip applied for survivor benefits, and his application was denied because the relevant state law allows benefits only for a surviving “spouse.” After his application was rejected, Glossip filed this lawsuit challenging the state statute restricting survivor benefits based on marital status, as well as the statute defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Importantly, Glossip did not challenge the state’s constitutional provision prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages.