Thursday, April 30, 2015

We've come a long way since the first same-sex-marriage case in federal court

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 11:19 AM

It's been 40 years since the first same-sex marriage license was issued in Boulder, Colorado. We've come a long way since then. 

Here in Washington, voters legalized gay marriage in 2012, and Idaho's ban on same-sex marriages was ruled unconstitutional last October with a costly lawsuit in federal court.   

One of the first couples to receive a marriage license from Boulder's County Clerk, Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams, were married April 21, 1975. They first met at a bar in downtown Los Angeles called the Closet in 1971, the Washington Post reports, and were inseparable ever since. 

Sullivan was Australian and at the time he met Adams was in LA on a tourist visa. After the couple got hitched in Colorado, Adams applied for a spouse's visa on Sullivan's behalf but was denied.

The letter from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service dated November 24, 1975, shows just how far we've come. The letter denies the spouse's visa, saying "You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots."

Adams appealed the decision, marking the first time a federal court was asked to consider same-sex marriage, but lost when Judge Anthony Kennedy of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a "spouse" refers to a partner of the opposite sex for immigration purposes. 

Interestingly enough, Judge Kennedy is now Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, who penned three of the Supreme Court's opinions on gay marriage — Romer v. Evans, Lawrence v. Texas, and United States v. Windsor — and could very well be the swing vote as the U.S. Supreme Court discusses the issue this week. 

Both men were living in LA when Adams died in 2012, their Boulder marriage still on the books, though Sullivan was technically living in the country illegally. After Adam's death, Sullivan wrote to President Obama requesting an apology, the Washington Post reports. The director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the INS), responded: "This agency should never treat any individual with the disrespect shown toward you and Mr. Adams. You have my sincerest apology for the years of hurt caused by the deeply offensive and hateful language used in the November 24, 1975, decision and my deepest condolences on your loss." 

Check out what each justice had to say Tuesday about gay marriage here.

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About The Author

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.