For those of you who remember the dear story told in the Independent Lens film Limited Partnership, longtime partners Tony Sullivan and Richard Adams became one of the first same sex couples to be legally married in the world, in 1975 in Boulder, Colorado, only to have Tony, who is originally from Australia, denied citizenship when the federal government failed to recognize the marriage. Sadly, Richard passed away a few years ago, but Tony gallantly continued the fight, both for his citizenship and for gay marriage in the United States. Well, we have some amazing news to share: The U.S. government has now officially recognized their marriage as valid, thus finally approving Tony’s green card application decades later, making the widower a U.S. citizen at last.
According to The Pride, a Los Angeles-based LGBT newspaper, the green card was recently delivered to the Hollywood apartment Richard and Tony shared for nearly four decades.
Lavi Soloway, their Los Angeles-based attorney, says the federal government’s recognition of their 1975 marriage is groundbreaking because it affirms that the constitutional protection of fundamental personal liberties, including the right to marry, extends to a marriage entered into by a same sex couple that took place decades ago.
“The unique and historic nature of this case cannot be understated. The U.S. government not only apologized directly to Anthony Sullivan, but, for the first time since the Supreme Court established the right of same-sex couples to marry as a protected, fundamental liberty—the Immigration Service has shown its willingness to correctly apply recent Court rulings and to recognize as valid this same-sex marriage that took place in 1975. Undaunted by setbacks in the 1970s and 1980s Richard and Anthony never wavered in their belief that their marriage was valid and should be treated with dignity and respect. Eventually the Supreme Court and the Immigration Service caught up with them,” said Soloway.
“After the Supreme Court ruling on Marriage Equality, USCIS acted on our request to apply, constitutionally valid principles to the 1975 green card petition. As a result, on December 1, 2015 the Board of Immigration Appeals ordered the petition be reopened and the original denial reconsidered,” he said.
New video of Tony receiving his green card and reading apology letter from US immigration official: