Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Missouri Supreme Court and Kelly Glossip: A shameful chapter ... but not the final chapter.

I write letters to the editor with great hesitation, because I find they often generate much more heat than light -- and generally find the comments sections after them to be petrie dishes of some of the worse angels of our human nature. But today's ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court against our brother, Kelly Glossip -- particularly because it involves the state trying to ill-define a sacrament of the church -- needs comment. And we as Christ Church Cathedral are uniquely qualified to testify that what Kelly and Dennis had was as much a marriage as Robin and mine. 

I have sent this to the Post-Dispatch. I hope it represents our community well. Please keep not only Kelly but all those who are collateral damage of discriminatory laws in your prayers ... and may we all be rededicated to shaping those laws to reflect our best selves.

Yesterday, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that Kelly Glossip was not entitled to survivor benefits from the state pension system because, despite their 15-year relationship, he was not legally married to Missouri Highway Patrol Corporal Dennis Engelhard, killed in the line of duty on Christmas Day, 2009.

On one level, the logic of the decision is irrefutable … an airtight syllogism: Receiving benefits requires you be married. In Missouri, two people of the same sex cannot be married. Therefore, in Missouri, a same-sex partner cannot receive benefits.

This argument might be legally sound, but it fails on a human level and is not worthy of us as a compassionate and just society.

Kelly and Dennis were parishioners of ours at Christ Church Cathedral. Dennis is buried in our memorial chapel and to this day, Kelly remains a part of this community. Like many other couples of same and differing sexes in our congregation whose commitment to one another is absolute and whose love for one another witnesses to Christ’s love for the world, make no mistake, Kelly and Dennis were married. Not in a way that was recognized by the state. Not even in a way that was recognized by the Episcopal Church. But in ways that count on that human level -- in the eyes of one another, in the eyes of their community, and in the eyes of God.

For thousands of years, people of faith have held that marriage is not so much a piece of paper but a quality of commitment to one another that recognizes that the two become one in self-giving love. A commitment that enriches not just the two but all society. That marriage is a relationship of joyful intimacy and of help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity. Make no mistake, Kelly and Dennis had a marriage. All that was missing was institutional sanction.

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that it is the institutional sanction – not the years of dedicated care for one another – that matters. It is a failure … and is indeed, in the words of dissenting Justice Richard B. Teitelman, a continuation of a “shameful history” of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But the good news is the final chapter of this history has not yet been written. And that is up to us. We must rededicate ourselves to writing the next chapter of this history. A chapter where the constitutional changes are made that recognize that no two people who have the depth of commitment and love that makes marriage one of the foundational institutions of our society should be denied its rights, responsibilities or benefits. A chapter that changes our founding documents so they no longer fail on that most basic, human level, but fulfill their highest purpose – to call us to our best selves as a compassionate, just society.

The Very Rev. Mike Kinman
Dean, Christ Church Cathedral
Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri


Steve Alagna said...

Bravo, Dean Mike. Thank you for writing this. Too often is the institutional side of marriage emphasized over the reality that this sacrament is performed by the couple and not by the state or even the Church. I'll continue to pray for greater equality.

Lorraine said...