Clela Rorex, Richard Adams, and Tony Sullivan (l-r) reunite
Tony Sullivan is no stranger to practicing the art of patience. He navigated through decades of legal fights with the U.S. government over both his own legal status as an immigrant from Australia and the legality of his marriage to the love of his life, Richard Adams. And he was the subject of a film that took nearly 13 years to make, Limited Partnership, which premieres Monday on Independent Lens [10pm; check local listings]. In fact, when the film started production, no state had legalized same-sex marriage, but fast forward to this month, when the Supreme Court is about to rule on whether or not all states must allow it.
It’s possible none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for a progressive county clerk in Boulder, Colorado who had been approving same-sex marriage licenses. Tony says he first learned that gay marriage licenses were being issued in Boulder from TV, including Johnny Carson making a joke about it on The Tonight Show. And eventually the pair made their way to Colorado in 1975 to get married. The license was signed by feminist county clerk Clela Rorex. This set off a firestorm, but also helped set Tony and Richard on a long, historic journey fighting for both marriage equality and immigration rights.
Last week we had the opportunity to sit down with both Tony and Clela together as they visited San Francisco. Clela still lives in Colorado, retired but an activist for civil rights, speaking to students and on panel discussions as an ally of gay rights. “I talk about the requirement to not be a bystander in life, you have to be out there, not just through texting and Facebook,” she says.
Meanwhile, Tony lives in Los Angeles, his home for decades, save a few years he had to live in exile — but more about that in the film. Continue reading