Thirty-seven years ago, in 1975 Richard Adams made history when he and his partner of four years, Anthony Sullivan, became one of the first gay couples in the country to be granted a marriage license Adams had hopes of saving his partner an Australian who had been in the country on a limited visa and was facing deportation by marrying him.
A Boulder, CO liberal county clerk Clela Rorex had decided to issue marriage licenses to gay couples after the Boulder district attorney’s office advised her that nothing in state law explicitly prohibited it.
Colorado’s attorney general later declared the Boulder marriages invalid. and Adams and Sullivan received a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that denied Sullivan’s petition to stay in the country which shockingly read: “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”
The INS to this day has never apologized for the contents of the letter.
Adams took the INS to court in 1979, challenging the constitutionality of the denial. A federal district judge in Los Angeles upheld the INS decision, and Adams and Sullivan lost subsequent appeals.
In a second lawsuit, the couple argued that Sullivan’s deportation after an eight-year relationship with Adams would constitute an “extreme hardship.” In 1985 a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the hardship argument and opened the way for Sullivan to be sent back to Australia.
Because Australia had already turned down Adams’ request for residency in that country, the couple decided the only way they could stay together was to leave the U.S. In 1985, they flew to Britain and drifted through Europe for the next year.
“It was the most difficult period because I had to leave my family as well as give up my job of 18 1/2 years. It was almost like death,” Adams said in “Limited Partnership,” a documentary scheduled for release next year.
The pair ended their self-imposed exile after a year and came home. They lived quietly in Los Angeles to avoid drawing the attention of immigration officials, but in recent years began to appear at rallies supporting same-sex marriage.
The day before he died, Sullivan told his partner that the most important victory was that they were able to remain a couple.
“Richard looked at me,” Sullivan told Soloway, “and said, ‘Yeah, you’re right. We’ve won.'”
Richard Adams, passed away on Monday at his home in Hollywood after a brief illness.
A true LGBT Hero.
Source: The L.A. Times