Government finally recognizes 1975 marriage

Posted on 08 Jun 2016 at 7:00am
Anthony Sullivan

Anthony Sullivan, in his home in Los Angeles (Photo for The Pride LA by Jon Viscott)

It was almost a year ago — 347 days, to be exact — that the United States Supreme Court made history with its ruling declaring marriage equality to be the law of the land. We spent a lot of time in the weeks after that ruling talking about the future, talking about how our lives were changing, about how the lives of our LGBT children would be so different, so much better.

We looked backwards, a little, too. We talked about all the hard work by so many people — our pioneers in LGBT equality — and how it was finally paying off. We talked about how their past work made our present and our future possible.

Now, Troy Masters with The Pride LAx, Los Angeles’ LGBT newspaper, brings us the story of Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan, and how last year’s marriage equality ruling changed — in a way — their past.

Adams and Sullivan were married in Boulder, Colo., in April 1975. Thanks to a loophole in the law and a fair-minded country clerk, they were able to get a marriage license, and they got married. Then Adams applied for a green card for his husband, Sullivan, who was an Australian citizen. The application was, of course, denied by immigration authorities who declared that the men had “failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

But their marriage remained on the record and was never invalidated.

The two men fought for 10 years, becoming in the process the first same-sex couple to sue the U.S. government to have their marriage legally recognized. But they lost at every turn, finally being forced to leave the country in 1985. They came back to the U.S. the next year, but had to live under the radar, always in fear that Sullivan would be deported.

Finally in 2012, President Obama offered some relief in the form of a memo to protect low-risk family members of U.S. citizens from deportation, including same-sex partners of American citizens. Sadly, Adams died a year later. But this year, 41 years after they were married, the White House has instructed the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue a written apology directly to Adams and Sullivan, and the same L.A. immigration office that denied their application for a green card with such insulting language in 1975 has recognized their marriage as legal and determined that Sullivan deserves the same treatment as all other surviving spouses under immigration law.

Read Masters’ full story here.

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