KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Members of the ACLU marched up the steps of the Jackson County courthouse Wednesday to file a petition that could pave the way for same-sex marriage in Missouri.
Local residents Jim MacDonald and Andy Schuerman said the current law discriminates against their family by denying them equal rights to benefits, equal say in medical treatment and equal say in daycare, education and financial decisions for their 3-year-old daughter, Grace.
They and seven other couples filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of Missouri's ban on same sex marriage.
The suit, filed on Wednesday, asks the state to validate the marriages of all gay couples in Missouri who were married in other states where it's legal.
The 10,000 same sex couples living in Missouri want to enjoy the same state benefits and protections as heterosexual couples.
It would not allow couples to get married in Missouri.
Schuerman is Grace's biological father. MacDonald adopted her as his daughter, enabling them both to serve as her legal fathers. MacDonald says it was a difficult process that same-sex couples don't have to tackle.
"Family means everything to me. My husband Andy has similar values and I think that's what brought us together. We are hoping Missouri will recognize those values," he explained.
Missouri was the first state to pass a constitutional same-sex marriage ban in 2004. It passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who led the fight to get the constitutional amendment passed, said on Wednesday, "The people of Missouri voted overwhelmingly to define marriage as between a man and a woman in our Constitution. That's not unconstitutional. That's democracy in action. People have a right to decide the policies that govern them and I look forward to the courts upholding that right."
However, Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri said 2014 could be the right time since there's been a big cultural shift in recent years.
"Because of the many benefits of marriage, Missouri has traditionally recognized lawful marriages performed in other states," he said. "We know that the people of Missouri are fair-minded and did not intend to harm these eight families and others like them, but our current laws do harm them."