SIGN THIS PETITION: We stand with Anthony Sullivan in his fight for recognition of his marriage to Richard Adams. The Obama administration should reverse the 1975 Green Card denial in which the Immigration Service called this gay couple “two faggots.”

Anthony Sullivan in May 8, 2014

Anthony Sullivan in May 2014

Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan in 1975 (Photo Credit: Pat Rocco)

Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan in 1975
Photo Credit: Pat Rocco

In 1975, gay rights pioneers, Anthony (Tony) Sullivan, an Australian, and Richard Adams, an American citizen, were one of the first same-sex couples in the United States to be legally married. After applying for a green card based on their marriage, Tony and Richard received an official denial from the Immigration Service in a letter that stated only: “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

The couple then began a high profile, ten-year legal battle, suing the Immigration Service for recognition of their marriage and became the first lawfully married same-sex couple to sue the federal government for equal treatment under U.S. Immigration law. Tony and Richard shared their lives together as a couple for more than 41 years until Richard Adams’ untimely death in December 2012.


President Obama:

We urge you to direct U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to resolve Anthony Sullivan’s immigration status and recognize his 37-year marriage to Richard Adams by granting his green card petition as the widower of a U.S. citizen under our immigration law.

The time is now to write the final chapter in Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams’ fight for equality.



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Watch Trailer for “Limited Partnership,” the Upcoming Documentary Film about Pioneering Gay Rights Activists, Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams, Whose Historic 1975 Marriage and Fight for a Green Card Defined the Modern Marriage Equality Movement

 The upcoming documentary feature film “Limited Partnership” will have its world premiere on June 14 at the prestigious Los Angeles Film Festival. The film recounts the personal story of gay rights pioneers Anthony (Tony) Sullivan and Richard Adams, one of the first same-sex couples to be legally married in 1975. After applying for a green card based on their marriage, Tony and Richard received an official denial from the Immigration Service in a letter that stated only “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.” The couple then began a high profile, ten year legal battle, suing the Immigration Service for recognition of their marriage and became the first lawfully married same-sex couple to sue the federal government for equal treatment under U.S. Immigration law.  They remained together for more than 41 years until the untimely death of Richard Adams in 2012.

Limited-Partnership-Poster_s

Limited Partnership” follows Richard and Tony’s 40-year struggle to stay together in the U.S., in the context of the wider history of the fight for equality by LGBT community and same-sex binational couples, from early days of the struggle right up to the historic U.S. Supreme Court rulings last year striking down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.


Read our earlier press release:

AFTER FOUR DECADES, GAY RIGHTS PIONEER, ANTHONY SULLIVAN, SEEKS REVERSAL OF 1975 GREEN CARD DENIAL BASED ON HIS HISTORIC MARRIAGE


PHOTOSAUDIO INTERVIEWS | ANTHONY SULLIVAN – WRITTEN STATEMENT

Listen: Anthony Sullivan Speaks After Filing Motion to Re-open with USCIS

anthony sullivanIn a follow-up interview with The Queer Public Broadcast Anthony Sullivan describes his experience after filing a motion to reopen the 1975 green card case based on his marriage to Richard Adams.

On April 21, 1975, after learning that the county clerk in Boulder, Colorado was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Adams, a naturalized U.S. citizen, married Sullivan who is Australian. The couple returned home to Los Angeles and Richard Adams immediately filed a green card petition with INS on Sullivan’s behalf for the spouse of an American citizen. They became one of the first gay couples in American history to legally marry and the first same-sex couple to sue the U.S. government for recognition of their marriage.

Don’t miss previous QP Exclusive: Interview with Anthony Sullivan, Equal Rights Pioneer:

 


Read Press Release


View Photos and Updates


Anthony Sullivan Speaks Out, Fights to Reverse 1975 Green Card Denial Based on Historic Marriage

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing the Motion with USCIS

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing the Motion with USCIS

Statement by Anthony Sullivan, April 22, 2014:

“On Monday, April 21, I appeared at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in downtown Los Angeles to ask the federal government to revisit their denial of the green card petition that filed by my spouse Richard Adams on my behalf in 1975 shortly after we became one of the first gay couples in American history to be lawfully married.

“Our green card petition was denied with a shocking letter from the INS that contained only one sentence calling us “faggots.” We sued the government and fought to be treated with dignity and respect and in the end we could not overcome the prejudices and bigotry of the time. Today we live in a different world. I want to the current Immigration Service to reopen my case, and reverse the denial of that green card petition so that I can be classified as the widower of an American citizen and obtain a green card after nearly forty years. My beloved Richard, who left us in December 2012, does not deserve to have the word “faggots” associated with his name in an official government file for all eternity. As an American citizen, he should have been treated fairly during his life, and now that he is gone, the least that the government can do is to render a legally and morally correct decision.

“I am fighting this battle 39 year later for Richard and for myself. I should be permitted to apply for the green card that was denied to me in 1975, and my marriage to Richard should finally be respected and treated equally under the law.

anthonys“Returning to the very same building where the original decision was made to reject us and insult us with the original “faggots” letter was certainly difficult. I certainly experienced a lot of unpleasant anticipation and concern knowing what I was about to do. But in the end, the experience of filing the Motion to Reopen with the clerk was clarifying. It was a positive experience to walk into their offices and submit my request for justice knowing that the individuals who work in that office now approve green cards for gay and lesbian spouses of American citizens as a routine part of their work.

“In the final analysis, I am optimistic. The world has changed and we are no longer labeled as “psychopathic personalities” and “mental defectives” by the immigration law as we were back then. I am a great believer in redemption and second opportunities. The government has an opportunity to do the right thing now.

Please contact my attorney Lavi Soloway at (323)577-9365 for further information, or see www.domaproject.org for additional historical documents and updates.

UPDATE: Anthony Sullivan, Gay Rights Pioneer, Seeks Reversal of 1975 Green Card Denial Based on Historic Marriage

Documentary Filmmaker Tom Miller, Anthony Sullivan, and Attorney Lavi Soloway

Documentary Filmmaker Tom Miller, Anthony Sullivan, and Sullivan’s attorney, Lavi Soloway, photographed on April 21 in downtown Los Angeles before filing the Motion at USCIS

On Monday, April 21, at 10 a.m., Anthony Sullivan, a 72-year-old gay immigrant, asked the Los Angeles Field Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to reopen his marriage-based green card petition which this same office denied four decades ago.


Gay Rights Pioneer Anthony SullivanAnthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway before filing Motion to ReopenAnthony SullivanAnthony Sullivan and Attorney Lavi Soloway Leaving Federal Building USCIS, April 21, 2014
 


Sixteen months after the death of his spouse in December 2012, Sullivan returns to fight for recognition of their marriage and for a green card, this time as the widower of an American citizen. Thirty-nine years to the day since Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams were legally married, Sullivan continues to fight for the right to have their marriage recognized by the federal government. By filing a Motion to Reopen and Reconsider with USCIS, Sullivan will ask that Adams’ 1975 green card petition be retroactively approved and automatically converted to a widower’s petition, which would give Sullivan the right to apply for a green card. 


TONY AND LAVI FILING MOTION

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway Filing the Motion

TONY WITH MOTION AFTER FILING

Tony with Motion after Filing

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing Motion to Reopen at USCIS

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing Motion at USCIS

On April 21, Anthony Sullivan and his attorney, Lavi Soloway, gave the Immigration Service and the Obama administration a unique opportunity to correct an historic wrong and reverse the gross injustice of its denial of the 1975 petition by putting Sullivan on the path to a green card.

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing the Motion with USCIS

Anthony Sullivan and Lavi Soloway after filing the Motion with USCIS


Listen to QP Exclusive: Interview with Anthony Sullivan, Equal Rights Pioneer


Read Press Release: Gay Immigrant Seeks Reversal of Infamous 1975 Green Card Denial, Based on Historic Same-Sex Marriage


Read Written Statement from Anthony Sullivan


Gay Immigrant Seeks Reversal of Infamous 1975 Green Card Denial, Based on Historic Same-Sex Marriage

On Monday, April 21, at 10 a.m., Anthony Sullivan, a 72-year-old gay immigrant, will ask the Los Angeles Field Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to reopen his marriage-based green card petition which this same office denied four decades ago.

Recent image of Anthony Sullivan holding the original INS denial letter from November 24, 1975, and original marriage certificate from April 21, 1975 (Photo Credit: Erin Taylor)

Recent image of Anthony Sullivan holding the original INS denial letter from November 24, 1975, and original marriage certificate from April 21, 1975 (Photo Credit: Erin Taylor)

In a letter dated November 24, 1975 and addressed to Sullivan’s spouse, Richard Adams, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”) wrote only a single inflammatory sentence to deny the petition:

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

1982 rejection of Richard and Tony's case by the US Supreme Court

1982 rejection of Richard and Tony’s case by the US Supreme Court

Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams fought back in a high-profile lawsuit, demanding that the federal government recognize their marriage for immigration purposes.  Following ten years of litigation, they lost in a final ruling at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sixteen months after the death of his spouse in December 2012, Sullivan now returns to fight for recognition of their marriage and for a green card, this time as the widower of an American citizen. By filing a Motion to Reopen and Reconsider with USCIS, Sullivan will ask that Adams’ 1975 green card petition be retroactively approved and automatically converted to a widower’s petition, which would give Sullivan the right to apply for a green card. This would be consistent with what is a routine procedure available to opposite-sex couples in similar circumstances. Sullivan and Adams were together for 41 years after first meeting on May 5, 1971 at a Los Angeles gay bar called “The Closet.” Soon after they started dating, Sullivan and Adams decided they wanted to be married. On April 21, 1975, after learning that the county clerk in Boulder, Colorado was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Adams, a naturalized U.S. citizen, married Sullivan who is Australian. The couple returned home to Los Angeles and Richard Adams immediately filed a green card petition with INS on Sullivan’s behalf for the spouse of an American citizen. They became one of the first gay couples in American history to legally marry and the first same-sex couple to sue the U.S. government for recognition of their marriage.

Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan in 1975 (Photo Credit: Pat Rocco)

Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan in 1975 (Photo Credit: Pat Rocco)

Thirty-nine years to the day since Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams were legally married, Sullivan continues to fight for the right to have their marriage recognized by the federal government. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law preventing the U.S. government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples, finding that discrimination against married same-sex couples violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. A few days later, the then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced that USCIS would recognize same-sex marriages for immigration purposes.

On April 21, Anthony Sullivan and his attorney, Lavi Soloway, will give the Immigration Service and the Obama administration a unique opportunity to correct an historic wrong and reverse the gross injustice of its denial of the 1975 petition by putting Sullivan on the path to a green card.

Original INS denial letter issued to Richard Adams

Original INS denial letter issued to Richard Adams

“We are asking the government to reopen and reconsider the denial of the marriage-based green card petition filed by Richard Adams in 1975 and to approve that petition.  In doing so, the Immigration Service will fulfill the promise of equality guaranteed by the Constitution. Granting our motion and approving this petition is consistent with the recent policies of the administration and the Immigration Service to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. The widows and widowers of gay and lesbian Americans who seek to resolve their immigration status must have access to the provisions of law already available to other surviving spouses of U.S. citizens who are permitted to self-petition for a green card,” said Lavi S. Soloway, a partner in the immigration law firm, Masliah & Soloway. The firm’s partners, Noemi Masliah and Lavi Soloway, founded The DOMA Project in 2010, a pro bono advocacy and education campaign focused on the historic exclusion of married gay and lesbian couples under U.S. immigration law and its lasting effects.

“Although we are sad Richard Adams did not live to see this day, we are optimistic the government will grant this Motion to Reopen and take the necessary steps to fulfill his desire that Mr. Sullivan be granted lawful permanent resident status by issuing a green card on the basis of their marriage. This unprecedented request is a matter of basic decency and tests our American ideals of equality and justice. We are asking the federal government, at long last, to treat this marriage with the dignity and respect it deserves, and, in so doing, to repudiate the unacceptable and hateful language that was used by INS in 1975.” Soloway said.


Original marriage license issued to Richard Adams and Antony Sullivan

Marriage License and Marriage Certificate confirming the lawful marriage of Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan as issued and registered by Boulder County, Colorado on April 21, 1975. Note: this certified copy was obtained from the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder on April 8, 2014.


Listen to QP Exclusive: Interview with Anthony Sullivan, Equal Rights Pioneer


Follow-up Interview with Anthony Sullivan:


View Event Photos and Updates


 View a list of archival documents for press


Read Written Statement from Anthony Sullivan


 

For further information, please contact David Valk or Erin Taylor at (323) 577-9365 or [email protected].

© The DOMA Project

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This is a pro-bono project of the law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC. Posts on this website are offered for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. The law firm of Masliah & Soloway, PC has offices in New York and Los Angeles. Our practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality Law.