With recent victories in Oregon and Pennsylvania, much of the media attention has been on marriage equality. It might be easy to think that marriage equality is a recent phenomenon, one that has been going on only ten years. But the themes of marriage equality, immigration equality, bi-national couples goes back decades.
But, thanks to the accessibility of information as well as those who fund LGBT documentaries, we are able to understand our roots enough to learn from them and ultimately shape the way we regard our future. One such documentary, Limited Partnership, details Richard Adams's and Anthony "Tony" Sullivan's relationship and their inspiring commitment to achieve marriage equality in the United States.
Richard Adams and Anthony “Tony” Sullivan are truly pioneers in the LGBT marriage and immigrant rights community. In 1975, Richard and Tony were one of six same-sex couples to be legally married in Boulder, CO. Because Tony was an Australian citizen, Richard filed for a green card based on their marriage. But an official letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) stated their petition was denied because they “failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”
Outraged at the tone, tenor and politics of this letter and to prevent Tony’s impending deportation, the couple sued the U.S. government, filing the first federal lawsuit seeking equal treatment for a same-sex marriage in U.S. history. In 1985, after years of battling the government, the couple lost their final appeal in the 9th Circuit Court. Judge Anthony Kennedy, before he was appointed to the Supreme Court, wrote the majority opinion supporting Tony's deporation.
The couple left the country together in November 1985. Missing their family, friends and livelihoods, they slipped back into the country in 1986, and Tony has been undocumented ever since. After years of living quietly under the radar, the passage of Proposition 8 in California spurred the bi-national couple to once again bravely appear at rallies and speak out in support of same-sex marriage. They risked Tony’s deportation, but both believed that taking a stand was worth it. On December 17, 2012, Richard died after a short illness. He will always be remembered as a loving husband and an inspiring activist. Today, Tony lives in California and continues to be an outspoken supporter of the LGBT immigration rights and marriage equality movement.