With all the craziness happening between the election and COVID-19, same-sex marriage rights icon Anthony Sullivan’s death never received the mourning that it deserved. The man who fought hard to have his union recognized passed away suddenly in his home back in November. Read on for the full story.
Anthony Sullivan-Who Fought Hard for Same-Sex Marriage Rights- Died Suddenly In His Home
Anthony Sullivan- an Australian man living in the US- spent over 40 years of his life trying to accomplish one thing that so many others take for granted-the right to have his marriage legally recognized. His journey led to the very first federal case in the US to recognize same-sex marriage. I’d call that pretty monumental, wouldn’t you?
Yet, aside from one recent article in Australia’s Star Observer, his loss was buried beneath a sea of disturbing election headlines and even more disturbing COVID milestones. He deserves far better, so let’s take a moment to celebrate this amazing man and his contribution to LGBTQ rights.
According to the Star Observer, Anthony was born in 1942, a time when same-sex marriage wasn’t just illegal, but homosexuality itself was still classified as a mental illness. Although he was born in Australia- where his family disowned him- he spent most of his adult life in the US.
In 1971, Anthony first met his lifelong love- Richard Adams– at a Los Angeles gay bar. They hit it off right away, enough that they decided to go out together to visit the Hollywood Walk off Fame. From that moment on, they were inseparable.
A lifetime of struggles couldn’t stop their love
Anthony and Richard faced a lifetime of struggles, right from the start. At the time, Anthony was not a US citizen. In fact, as far as Immigration was concerned, he was little more than a tourist. So, he couldn’t remain in the states permanently. Instead, he traveled back and forth from Mexico to the US, staying south of the border long enough to qualify for re-entry with tourist status. Unfortunately, Immigration figured out what he was up to and put a stop to it.
Back then- and even now- the best way to become a US citizen was to marry someone who already was one. As Anthony and Richard were madly in love, this seemed like the perfect option. Of course, gay marriage wasn’t legal in 1975, but an extraordinary Colorado clerk named Clela Rorex didn’t let that stop her from issuing them. She’s credited with issuing the very first same-sex marriage certificate in the United States. Unfortunately, she was only able to issue about 6 in all before her superiors stopped her.
Fortunately, though, Anthony and Richard were among those 6 pioneer couples. However, getting married was only the start of their fight. When they returned to Los Angeles, Anthony applied for a green card. Immigration refused him, horrifically stating in a letter riddled with homophobia, hatred and foul language that Anthony failed to “establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two fa**ots.” INS later retracted the letter, but not their stance on Anthony’s and Richard’s marriage.
Anthony & Richard start first court case to recognize same-sex marriage
So, the pair became the very first couple in US history to sue to have their same-sex marriage recognized. They lost that case, and the Supreme Court wouldn’t even hear their appeal. After several other losses, Anthony had exhausted his options for fighting deportation. So, they moved to Europe and bounced around a bit until 1986, when they were successful in re-entering the US from Mexico. Anthony spent most of the next two decades hiding from immigration.
It wasn’t until 2011, when President Obama ruled to protect relatives like Anthony from deportation, that they were finally able to breathe easy. Sadly, Richard passed away back in 2012, succumbing to cancer, not living long enough to see same-sex marriage finally legalized.
However, Anthony continued the fight and 45 years after marrying Richard, he finally received not only his green card, but official recognition of their marriage. During an interview with LA’s The Pride in 2015, Anthony said, “I desperately wish Richard was here with me for this.”
On November 10, 2020, Anthony rejoined his true love after dying suddenly in his home.
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