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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 28, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 52
Marriage equality pioneer dies
Section One
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Marriage equality pioneer dies

Richard Adams tried to marry his partner in 1975

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

Richard Adams, who fought for his same-sex marriage to be recognized for four decades, has died, his attorney, Lavi Soloway, said Sunday. Adams passed away December 17 at his home in Hollywood after a brief illness. He was 65.

'After 40 years of fighting he missed the outcome at the Supreme Court,' Soloway said in the announcement of Adams' death. 'But he felt optimistic.'

Adams' fight for his right to marry began in 1975, when he and his partner, Tony Sullivan, were granted a marriage license in Boulder, Colorado. The two had heard that a county clerk there, Clela Rorex, was offering marriage licenses to same-sex couples after learning from her district attorney's office that nothing in Colorado law expressly forbade it.

Adams and Sullivan were among only a handful of couples that received licenses before the State of Colorado came down on Rorex.

One of Adams and Sullivan's motivations for marrying was to get permanent U.S. residency status for Sullivan, an Australian, which they applied for through the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) after their marriage.

GOVERNMENT USED F-WORD
The couple received a one-sentence denial letter from the INS, which read, 'You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.'

The INS later issued a follow-up response that removed the offending language but gave no grounds for its reasoning.

Adams took the INS to court in 1979 in an attempt to have the decision overturned - the first federal lawsuit seeking same-sex marriage recognition. He later filed a separate lawsuit on the constitutionality of denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

While many LGBT rights activists were fighting for the right to marry in the first place, Adams was defending a marriage he had been officially granted. The trial reached the federal appeals courts, but Adams' claims were ultimately rejected.

SUBJECT OF NEW FILM
Both Adams and Sullivan, his partner of 43 years at the time of his death, will be featured in an upcoming documentary, Limited Partnership, a film about 'love, marriage, and deportation.'

'You can draw a straight line from Tony and Richard's efforts in the 1970s to that piece of paper in 2012,' Soloway said of same-sex marriage today.

Adams and Sullivan fought together for decades to see their marriage recognized by the U.S. and Australian governments, as well as by a population for whom the idea of two married men was still unheard of. The two were subjected to anti-Gay sentiment and slurs, even from government agencies.

'They felt that in the end, the most important thing was their love for each other, and in that respect they won,' said Soloway. 'No government or no law was ever able to keep them apart.'

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