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


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].

USCIS Approves 2010 Green Card Petition for Pioneering Gay Couple Who Stopped the First DOMA Deportation

JOSH_AND_HENRY_MAY_2011

Josh and Henry photographed in May in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park (Jonathan Ystad/GetEqual)

In the summer of 2010, Josh and Henry married in Connecticut, eight years after Henry first arrived in this country with his mother and sister from Venezuela. A failed employment-based immigration case filed by an unscrupulous lawyer had resulted in Henry being placed into deportation proceedings. After approaching the law firm, Masliah & Soloway, they joined our newly-formed campaign, The DOMA Project.

Masliah & Soloway filed one of their first green card petitions for a married same-sex couple on behalf of Josh and Henry. They then set off on a program of public advocacy that stretched from mainstream television and print to social media. On September 26, 2010, with Henry’s mother, Luz, and attorney Lavi Soloway, The DOMA Project attended a rally for Marriage Equality in lower Manhattan with other binational couples, for the first time fighting to “Stop The Deportations.”

Josh+and+Luz+in+Office

And that is how it all started. What followed was a three-year campaign in Immigration Courts, USCIS offices and in the Court of Public Opinion, engaging the White House, U.S. Senators and Josh and Henry’s strongly supportive Congressman, Rush Holt.

Josh and Henry, who have been together since 2006, not only inspired hundreds of other couples to join the campaign and take a more direct approach, but also proved by their actions that a small group of committed individuals could bring about change.

In the spring of 2011, Josh and Henry won a major victory when ICE agreed to stop deportation proceedings against Henry, and for the first time the government agreed to close proceedings acknowledging that this deportation would not be taking place if not for DOMA. We salute them today and look forward to sharing more good news here about other couples who are finally experiencing what it means to win equality and end discrimination against LGBT families in US immigration law.

joshhenryapproved

This week, Josh and Henry learned that their green card petition filed in 2010 in defiance of DOMA has been approved exactly three years after it was filed. During these three years, Josh and Henry’s narrative inspired hundreds of other binational couples to join a public fight for equality by sharing their own stories with their communities, with their elected officials, and with the media.

As Josh and Henry’s story comes full circle, our work continues to make sure that all lesbian and gay binational couples are swiftly reunited and able to move forward with their future with security and full protection of the laws.

23 Years Together, Raising Four Children, Mark and Frédéric Rejoice at Their Approved Green Card Case

markfredapproved

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Mark Himes and Frédéric Deloizy, stepped up to the front lines of the fight against DOMA early on in 2011 by filing a marriage-based green card petition and advocating for full equality for their family. As a foreigner, Frédéric, a French national, had seen both his work visa and his student visa expire, and the time he had left to share with his family was limited under DOMA.

Frédéric and Mark were wed in California in 2008, 18 years after they first met. In two decades together, they have adopted four beautiful children. They welcomed their two oldest, John and Claire, just days after their respective birthdays in 2000 and 2003. On their 19th anniversary in April 2009, Fred and Mark welcomed Jacob and Joshua, both four years old at the time.

FM KIDS TREE 600

Mark and Frédéric have put countless efforts over the past few years into staying together as a family in the United States: building their home, and putting down their roots. On January 11th, last year, they appeared before a Philadelphia Immigration Officer for a “Green Card” interview to put forward the evidence of their two-decades relationship and their marriage to be allowed to stay together with their children in this country.

After twenty-three years together for Mark and Frédéric, this family of six in Pennsylvania was notified that Fred and Mark’s green card case was, at last, approved. Despite the hurdles they faced to stay together as a same-sex binational couple, Fred and Mark decided that they must fight for the green card based on their marriage and today that fight was won at long last.

We rejoice with Mark, Frédéric, John, Claire, Jacob and Joshua, as after a long struggle, this family can resume their lives, treated equally under the law.

Mark & Fred with their family

Mark, Frédéric, John, Claire, Jacob and Joshua at the White House Easter Egg Roll in 2010

 

Green Card Granted: Victory over DOMA for Becky and Sanne in North Carolina

Late Sunday night, DOMA Project co-founder, immigration attorney Lavi Soloway, boarded a red eye flight from Los Angeles to Charlotte, North Carolina, to witness the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution work its magic for a married binational lesbian couple, Becky and Sanne, and their beautiful daughter, Willow.

 Becky & Sanne en route to green card interview w/ atty Lavi Soloway

Becky & Sanne en route to green card interview with attorney Lavi Soloway

Although North Carolina voters passed the infamous anti-gay state constitutional “Amendment 1″ in May 2012 that bars The Tar Heel State from recognizing and performing marriages or civil unions of same-sex couples, Masliah & Soloway clients, Becky and Sanne, who married in the Netherlands, were treated just as any other married couple as they arrived at their green card interview on Monday, August 5th, at 10 a.m. at the USCIS office in Charlotte. The Officer thoroughly reviewed the journey of their relationship which began in India and included time spent in Belgium and the Netherlands as well as Africa. The Officer was satisfied that they had provided sufficient evidence of the bona fides of their marriage and officially re-opened the denied green card application (the Board of Immigration Appeals had already ordered the green card petition to be re-opened) and adjudicated it at the same time.

Becky, Sanne and their daughter Willow live in Asheville, North Carolina. They first joined The DOMA Project in July 2011 when they shared their incredible, moving story, “Ten Trips, a Wedding and a Daughter: Exiled Binational Couple Finds a New Life in Belgium.” In 2012, Becky and Sanne settled down to a life in North Carolina. They married and filed a green card petition on the basis of their marriage. They also participated in our short film series, “Love Stories: Binational Couples on the Front Lines of DOMA,” which was produced by The DOMA Project in collaboration with Brynn Gelbard and the DeVote Campaign. (Read more about our collaboration on this series here.)

The DOMA Project participants, Becky and Sanne had been on the forefront of the fight for equality, filing for a green card last year and telling their story in print and on screen. Just before Mother’s Day Becky and Sanne had learned that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rejected the denial of the marriage-based green card petition they had filed last year. The BIA sent the case back to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Field Office in Charlotte, North Carolina for further processing with orders to conduct complete fact-finding, including an interview, to determine whether they would be eligible for a green card if not for Section 3 of DOMA. Today, in the post-DOMA reality for which they so visibly and zealously advocated, Becky and Sanne finally had their long-awaited interview with the USCIS Charlotte office.

At the conclusion of the interview, the USCIS Officer announced with a smile that Sanne was now a lawful permanent resident of the United States, and Becky and Sanne shared a hug and tears of joy. Just 75 minutes after the interview began, USCIS ordered production of the actual green card which is expected to come by mail the next week. The USCIS Officer made the extraordinary gesture of placing into Sanne’s passport a red stamp, indicating that she was a “Lawful Permanent Resident” secured by the official seal of the USCIS in order to facilitate her need to renew her expired driver’s license and “get on with her life” without further delay. As Becky and Sanne parted ways with their attorney at the Charlotte airport a few minutes ago, there were hugs and more tears. “We did it!” they all seemed to say in unison.

beckysanneuscis

Becky and Sanne are living a tangible, genuine triumph of the Windsor case: post-DOMA‬ reality. Thanks to Edie Windsor’s incredible determination and courage and their own resolve to be treated equally, Becky and Sanne are well on the way to build a better future for themselves and their daughter in North Carolina.

This is what equality looks like.

Rick & Gonzalo: Same-Day Green Card Approval for Married Gay Couple in San Francisco, Just Hours After Interview

golden gate bridge

In 2012, after years of fighting DOMA as a binational couple from Argentina and San Francisco, Gonzalo proposed to Rick with two dozen beautiful red roses, along with chocolate, a large red heart, and a card that said, “You are the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. Will you marry me?!” Rick cried tears of joy. Yes, he said.

Rick and Gonzalo were married in 2013: they called the New York Blizzard of 2013 the icing on their wedding cake. It was then that Rick and Gonzalo joined the other binational couples with The DOMA Project and put their faith in The DOMA Project’s ground-breaking strategy to fight the Defense of Marriage Act by filing for their green card even when their case was not yet approvable.

In March 2013, Rick filed a green card petition for Gonzalo, just like any other American citizen would do for his foreign-born spouse.

rickgonzalo

Today, as Rick and Gonzalo attended their marriage-based green card interview, their attorney Lavi Soloway‘s eyes welled up with “happy tears” as they presented the evidence of their relationship: the interview was the first one that he had attended with a married gay couple since the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, a historic milestone in a twenty-year career as an immigration lawyer working with LGBT families.

The USCIS officer, as expected, treated Rick and Gonzalo exactly as she would have treated any other married couple. She noted the historical nature of the event, but proceeded to review the evidence of their relationship and their marriage thoroughly.

Just five hours after the interview, Rick and Gonzalo learned that their green card case was granted in record time. USCIS notified their attorney by e-mail and he called to relay the unexpectedly fast decision.

Today Rick and Gonzalo were treated as though DOMA never existed. After more than five years spent traveling between Buenos Aires and San Francisco and often separated for long periods by U.S. immigration law, they finally have the green light to build a future together here.

This is what equality looks like!

Claus and Tom: The DOMA Project Participants Celebrate Hard-won Equality

claustom-equalitygreencard

In what has become a joyous post-DOMA reality, USPS delivered a green card to yet another happy same-sex binational couple: Claus Andersbo and Tom Bercu of Los Angeles. Claus – originally from Denmark – and Tom – a U.S. citizen – had filed for the green card for Claus based on their marriage in anticipation of the Defense of Marriage Act being struck down by the Supreme Court. They were scheduled for their green card interview and attended it in May this year.

During the interview their immigration attorney, Lavi Soloway, had argued that their green card application should be put on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA. After the Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA at the end of June, it didn’t take long for Tom and Claus to learn that their green card was granted and was in the process of being made and mailed to them. Claus Andersbo is only the fourth immigrant in the nation to be granted a green card based on his marriage to his same-sex spouse.

Today, the DOMA Project participants, Claus and Tom can celebrate their hard-won equality, with the green card in hand. Tomorrow, we expect further joyous news from many more gay and lesbian binational couples: fighting to stay in the U.S. with their families, to reunite with their loved ones, and to be able to travel and work freely at last.

Family Celebrates! San Jose Lesbian Couple Receives Green Card, UK Spouse Can Finally Visit Her Children Abroad

judykarin-equalitygreencard

On July 15, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a green card to U.K. citizen, Karin Bogliolo, 72, based on her marriage to U.S. citizen Judy Rickard, 65, making Karin the third gay immigrant in U.S. history to become a lawful permanent resident on the basis of a same-sex marriage.

Karin and Judy attended their green card interview in September, 2012 with their attorney, Lavi Soloway, co-founder of The DOMA Project, who proceeded to persuade the USCIS office in San Jose to put their case on hold for another ten months so that it would be approved immediately after the Supreme Court ruling.

Shortly after being approved, Karin’s green card arrived in the mail – a final physical proof that Judy and Karin had won their fight to remain together as a family in the U.S.  Karin Bogliolo can now live in the U.S. with her wife Judy Rickard without fear of separation, and can also travel to visit her children abroad. At last, Karin and Judy celebrate their victory, knowing that their marriage was treated equally under the law.

READ PRESS RELEASE

Gay Couple Receives Green Card: DOMA‬ Project Participants Shaun & John Celebrate and Keep Up The Fight for Equality

shaun-john-equalitygreencard3

This week, Shaun Stent had received his green card in the mail: final physical proof of John and Shaun‘s victory in 13-year fight against DOMA to be able to live in U.S. as a family.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a green card to U.K. citizen, Shaun Stent, on July 11, 2013, based on his marriage to American citizen, John Catuara, making Shaun the second gay immigrant in U.S. history to become a lawful permanent resident on the basis of a same-sex marriage.  The couple have been together since 2001. They married in January 2012, and have struggled for thirteen years to be together in this country.

READ PRESS RELEASE

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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.