Gay Binational Marriage Rights Pioneer Richard Adams Dies

BY Michelle Garcia

December 19 2012 5:50 PM ET

Tony Sullivan and Richard Adams

Richard Adams, a gay rights pioneer and one half of the first couple to file a marriage equality lawsuit against the federal government, died Monday morning.

Adams and his partner, Tony Sullivan, met in 1971 in Los Angeles and were legally wed in Colorado on April 21, 1975, by a Boulder city clerk with five other same-sex couples. Later that year Adams filed a petition with the government to make Sullivan a permanent resident as a spouse of a U.S. citizen. According to reports, the couple received a letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service on November 24, 1975 that read, "You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots."

The couple soon filed a federal lawsuit, Adams v. Howerton. In addition to Adams's years of activism against apartheid, nuclear war, American intervention in Central America, and in favor of gender equity, Adams dedicated several decades of his life to marriage equality, especially for binational couples. The couple is featured in the documentary Limited Partnership, about their life as a binational couple and the fight for equality.

Adams was born in Manila, Philippines, and came to the U.S. when he was 12 years old. He grew up in Long Prairie, Minn., where he was educated in a one-room schoolhouse before attending the University of Minnesota. Adams became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1968.

The couple's attorney, noted immigration lawyer Lavi Soloway, said that when Sullivan and Adams married in 1975, they opted not to use the term "'til death do us part." Instead, they vowed to stay married to each other "for as long as there is love."

Watch a preview of the film:

Limited Partnership Trailer 30 July from Kirkym on Vimeo.

 

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