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RIP Marriage Equality Pioneer Richard Adams: VIDEO

RichardSullivanIn 1975, long before most LGBT people were even thinking about marriage equality, Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan tied the knot in Boulder, Colorado.

They later petitioned the government for full permanent resident status for Australian Sullivan, a bold move in an era when homophobia was still very much institutionalized.

The government was clearly not feeling very generous: according to The Advocate the Immigration and Naturalization Service wrote to the men on November 24, 1975, "You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots." A lawsuit soon ensued, the first of its kind.

Frontiers LA offers more background on the legal action:

Adams filed a lawsuit arguing that the denial violated his right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitutional. Meanwhile, the INS put Sullivan’s deportation hearing on hold and when it resumed again a month after Ronald Reagan became President, Sullivan applied for a suspension of deportation, claiming deportation would cause the couple extreme hardship. The application was denied and Sullivan appealed.

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denied his appeal, saying Adams was not "a qualifying relative to whom hardship may be shown under the express provisions of the statue."

Sadly, Adams died Monday at the age of 65. The men, who met in 1971 in LA, had been together for 41 years and their journey is featured in the documentary Limited Partnership, a previous of which I've included AFTER THE JUMP.

Lavi Soloway, an immigration lawyer who worked with the couple, said of Adams, "Richard never gave up on the belief that justice would prevail, and he never waited for others to do the job. He is one of the heroes on whose shoulders we all stand as we carry on the fight for full equality."

Soloway also pointed out that when the men married in 1975, they replaced "till death do us part" with "for as long as there is love."

Watch a preview of Limited Partnership featuring Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan AFTER THE JUMP.


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  1. RIP Richard Adams. Seems a lot of our heroes in the past are dying recently :( Makes me want to fight for our equality even harder with these brave souls in mind.

    Posted by: Francis | Dec 20, 2012 10:47:58 AM

  2. Stuff like this leave me speechless. We've moved a long way since 1975, thanks in large part to people like Sullivan and Adams. R.I.P. Mr. Adams. 65 was definitely too young.

    I don't think most young gay men and women realize how lucky they have it in 2012. I think many believe the rights they [and others] most likely take for granted didn't just fall out of the sky one day. No matter who you are, gay or non-gay, man or woman, whatever your so-called race, ethnicity, etc., don't ever take your rights as a free human being for granted. There are powerful forces in our world who would love to reduce you to serf-like status if they could.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 20, 2012 10:52:13 AM

  3. "You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots."

    Wow, just wow. I knew homophobia was widespread in the 70's but I would have never thought that this kind of hateful language was coming directly from the government, that's just shocking. We've come a long way since 1975 but there's still a lot to do.
    RIP Richard Adams, we'll continue the fight!

    Posted by: Peter M. | Dec 20, 2012 3:20:27 PM

  4. So sad to hear the news of Richard's passing. He and his husband Tony are among the greatest pioneers in the marriage equality movement. I wrote about them extensively during my time at Frontiers Newsmagazine and The Advocate. We became great friends, sharing many happy Sunday brunches together. Richard, you will be missed.

    Posted by: John C. | Dec 20, 2012 5:23:34 PM

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