LA Resident Appeals 1975 INS Decision Denying Him a Green Card and Calling Him a ‘Faggot’

Anthony Sullivan (Photo by Erin Taylor)
Anthony Sullivan (Photo by Erin Taylor)

Anthony Sullivan, a 72-year-old gay immigrant from Australia, will ask the Los Angeles Field Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) on Monday to reopen the marriage-based green card petition that the office denied four decades ago.

INS letter describing Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan as 'faggots.'
INS letter describing Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan as ‘faggots.’

In a letter dated Nov. 24, 1975 and addressed to Sullivan’s spouse, Richard Adams, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”) wrote only a single inflammatory sentence to deny the petition: “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

Anthony Sullivan and Richard Adams fought back in a high-profile lawsuit, demanding that the federal government recognize their marriage for immigration purposes. Following ten years of litigation, they lost in a final ruling at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sixteen months after the death of his spouse in December 2012, Sullivan now returns to fight for recognition of their marriage and for a green card, this time as the widower of an American citizen. By filing a Motion to Reopen and Reconsider with USCIS, Sullivan will ask that Adams’ 1975 green card petition be retroactively approved and automatically converted to a widower’s petition, which would give Sullivan the right to apply for a green card. This would be consistent with what is a routine procedure available to opposite-sex couples in similar circumstances.

Sullivan and Adams were together for 41 years after first meeting on May 5, 1971 at a Los Angeles gay bar called “The Closet.” Soon after they started dating, Sullivan and Adams decided they wanted to be married.

On April 21, 1975, after learning that the county clerk in Boulder, CO, was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Adams, a naturalized U.S. citizen, married Sullivan. The couple returned home to Los Angeles, and Adams immediately filed a green card petition with INS on Sullivan’s behalf for the spouse of an American citizen. They became one of the first gay couples in American history to legally marry and the first same-sex couple to sue the U.S. government for recognition of their marriage.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law preventing the U.S. government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples, finding that discrimination against married same-sex couples violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. A few days later, the then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced that USCIS would recognize same-sex marriages for immigration purposes.

On Monday, Anthony Sullivan and his attorney, Lavi Soloway, will give the Immigration Service and the Obama administration a unique opportunity to correct the denial of the 1975 petition by putting Sullivan on the path to a green card.

“We are asking the government to reopen and reconsider the denial of the marriage-based green card petition filed by Richard Adams in 1975 and to approve that petition,” said Soloway, a partner in the immigration law firm of Masliah & Soloway. “In doing so, the Immigration Service will fulfill the promise of equality guaranteed by the Constitution. Granting our motion and approving this petition is consistent with the recent policies of the administration and the Immigration Service to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. The widows and widowers of gay and lesbian Americans who seek to resolve their immigration status must have access to the provisions of law already available to other surviving spouses of U.S. citizens who are permitted to self-petition for a green card.”

The firm’s partners, Noemi Masliah and Lavi Soloway, founded The DOMA Project in 2010, a pro bono advocacy and education campaign focused on the historic exclusion of married gay and lesbian couples under U.S. immigration law and its lasting effects.

“Although we are sad Richard Adams did not live to see this day, we are optimistic the government will grant this Motion to Reopen and take the necessary steps to fulfill his desire that Mr. Sullivan be granted lawful permanent resident status,” Soloway said. “This unprecedented request is a matter of basic decency and tests our American ideals of equality and justice. We are asking the federal government, at long last, to treat this marriage with the dignity and respect it deserves, and, in so doing, to repudiate the unacceptable and hateful language that was used by INS in 1975.”

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R
R
7 years ago

Victoria, you cling to those old ways of thinking, not because they’re universal and enduring, but because they comfort you. The reality has ALWAYS been different, and gay people finally are able to discuss this in public, and fight for our rights. Families are defined by LOVE, and lots of infertile couples are still married. So go read a bible or whatever, but just a reminder that your statements are becoming antiquated and your words hurt gay youth who need acceptance.

Brian and Gavern
Brian and Gavern
8 years ago

>Victoria you are just as ignorant as your “wholesome” comment suggests, natural is everything my dear as in EVERYTHING in the whole Multiverse. There are a million and one definitions of marriage my dear, this is not about the man made religious definition of marriage it is about a particular governments definition of marriage and all the legal rights and privileges afforded with it. There is same sex union all throughout nature, always has and always will be and for your information my dear, same sex “marriage” has occurred and been “wholesomely” recognized for thousands of years in ancient cultures… Read more »

Victoria
Victoria
8 years ago

On the other hand, this man was treated poorly in 1975, and was not given proper respect and compassion, regardless of whether authorities believed he had a case to make or not.

Victoria
Victoria
8 years ago

Marriage is by definition a union between a man and a woman, in the same way that a baby is made through the union of sperm and egg. Marriage is not just about two people who love each other making a commitment to each other. Marriage looks further than the inward-looking couple and looks outward to society to offer the chance to build a family, to raise children in a natural way, in a way where children are taught the true and unique qualities of being a man and being a woman, and marriage is therefore a union that must… Read more »

Brian & Gavern
Brian & Gavern
8 years ago

It’s crazy that in the land of so-called Freedom & Equality that a man has to wait till pretty much the last remaining decades of his life to finally have his relationship and the benefits thereof recognized by the US Government. Whilst the Doma Project and other Equal Rights Organizations may have been instrumental in assisting and providing representation to some binational spouses, who arguably were the worst affected by Doma’s outright cruel discrimination, they have thus far done very little to assist US citizens and their spouses who remain in exile due the bars that were caused by only… Read more »

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