Missouri Judge J. Dale Young of Jackson County Circuit Court will hear arguments today in the first legal challenge to the state's prohibition on recognizing same-sex marriages.
The lawsuit, filed in state court in February by ten same-sex couples married in other states, targets Missouri's constitutional amendment that refuses to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Notably, the suit does not ask the state to begin performing new same-sex marriages, only to recognize those unions of legally married couples living in the state.
Jim MacDonald and Andy Schuerman married in Canada nine years ago and are fighting for their daughter to receive the benefits of children with legally married parents, reports local news station KSHB.
"I want her to be proud of her family and I know she will be no matter what," Schuerman told KSHB. "But I don't want anything to hinder that. Having full recognition of our marriage by the state of Missouri and the federal government is an important part of that process."
In 2004, Missouri was the first state to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage within the state, according to KSHB. Seventy percent of voters approved the ban.
"Missouri's marriage ban denies recognition to those lesbians and gay men who have legally married under the laws of other jurisdictions," attorneys on the case wrote in a brief filed with the court. "It, therefore, violates their fundamental rights."
By contrast, the state argues that Missouri's constitution has a clear ban on same-sex marriage that was voted on by the residents of Missouri. Attorneys for the state contend that until the Supreme Court settles the issue of marriage equality, Missouri has every right to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.
"When you look at what the Supreme Court did in 2013, it clearly stated it's unconstitutional for the government to single out same-sex families for discriminatory treatment," Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the Missouri American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the couples in court, told The Kansas City Star. "We wanted to bring the fight to Missouri."
Despite the overwhelming approval Missouri's constitutional amendment garnered in 2004, those challenging the ban say attitudes toward same-sex couples in Missouri have changed. "I'm not sure if it's a generational shift, but I think more and more people now consider same-sex marriage acceptable," ACLU attorney Gillian Wilcox told KSHB. "The recognition of these marriages is crucial. The couples have had to go out of state to get married and then they cross into the state line of their home state and they're effectively divorced upon crossing that state line which is incredibly unfair and they do not deserve to be treated like that."
Watch KSHB's report below.