THE REMARKABLE, HEARTBREAKING STORY OF RICHARD ADAMS AND TONY SULLIVAN, TWO GAY MEN WHO WOULD NOT GIVE UP

JUSTICE KENNEDY WRITES MAJORITY OPINION ON SAME SEX MARRIAGE



The Supreme Court today issued its opinion on the Obergefell vs. Hodges case (one of four before the Court) about whether or not states can ban same sex marriage and if one state must recognize legal same sex marriages performed in other states.  A big day for gay and civil rights along the same lines as the decision in Loving vs. The Commonwealth of Virginia (1967) and Brown vs. Board of Education (1954).  Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in this 5-4 decision with the usual split on the bench we’ve seen time and again.  I, personally, am grateful to Kennedy for his vote and for writing today's opinion.   He also wrote the majority opinions in two other landmark cases concerning gay rights: the 2003 ruling in Lawrence vs. The State Texas that struck down the criminalization of homosexuals and homosexual acts and the recent 2013 case of United Sates vs. Windsor that stuck down Congress’ ill-conceived, Defense of Marriage Act thus allowing Federal recognition of same sex marriages and the distribution of Federal rights and benefits to same sex marriage partners.  Kennedy is touted as a staunch defender of gay rights and, based on his writings while a member of the Supreme Court, rightly so. 



But watching an Independent Lens documentary about an earlier gay rights struggle back in the 1970’s, I was surprised to learn that Justice Anthony Kennedy was not always a liberal supporter of gay rights.  A native Californian appointed to the High Court by Ronald Reagan (not a defender of LGBT rights as those of us who were alive during his Administration know when AIDS was killing thousands of men, women and children annually and his Administration did NOTHING) Kennedy ruled against the first same sex marriage case heard at the Federal level.   As a Federal Judge serving on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals when Tony Sullivan and Richard Adams' lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration Service who had denied their marriage and application for permanent residence, Kennedy ruled against them. 


Tony and Richard were married on April 21, 1975, in Boulder, Colorado, when a city clerk, Clela Rorex, who had researched state law and found no prohibition against the issuance of marriage licenses for same sex couples in Colorado’s Constitution.  It was six months later that Tony and Richard received a letter from the U.S. government denying their application for permanent residence for Australian citizen Tony Sullivan.  It reads, in part, as follows:

“You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.” 

For the next thirty-seven years Richard and Tony lived with the threat of deportation hanging over their lives forcing them to Europe and Mexico, until Tony’s death from cancer in 2012.  But their love for each other stretched over forty years and is a testament to why today’s Supreme Court Ruling is a triumph not only for the gay rights movement, but a triumph for every American who believes in fairness, equality and justice to say nothing of the triumph of love in our lives. 

If you haven't seen the story of Tony and Richard in the PBS documentary "Limited Partnership," you should.  It's both heartwarming and heartbreaking and a magnificent story of two men who simply would not give up in the face of years of injustice and discrimination.   








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