A Love Story
This is a love story between Filipino-American Richard Adams and Australian Tony Sullivan, who, in 1975, became one of the first same-sex couples in the world to be legally married. After applying for a green card for Tony based on their marriage, the couple received a denial letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service stating, ‘You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.’ Outraged at this letter, and to prevent Tony’s impending deportation, the couple sued the U.S. government, filing the first federal lawsuit seeking equal treatment for a same-sex marriage in U.S. history. This tenacious story of love, marriage and immigration equality is as precedent setting as it is little known… until now.
Adams and Sullivan met in 1971 at a Los Angeles bar called The Closet. They fell in love, and spent the next 40 years fighting the system in order to stay together. They became one of the first same-sex couples to be legally married—and the first to be denied legal immigration status. Long before the current battle over same-sex marriage was even a thought in the minds of many, the two men were suing the U.S. government for the right to be married, and then for the right to have that marriage recognized so Tony could get a green card and not be deported.
They received a shocking response from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, then an unexpected outpouring of hate and bigotry from the general public, and then the ludicrous choice to either live apart or leave the country together (of course, they had to choose the latter—but with great consequence). In this film, director Thomas G. Miller takes us back and forth through the decades with this pioneering and persistent bi-national couple, two unsung heroes who paved the way for the eventual defeat of DOMA.
Naturally they were outraged at the tone, tenor and politics of this letter and to prevent Tony’s impending deportation, the couple sued the U.S. government. This became the first federal lawsuit seeking equal treatment for a same-sex marriage in U.S. history. They spent forty years in legal challenges yet both men were able to keep their senses of humor, their sense of justice and their privacy.
Over four decades of legal challenges, Richard and Tony figured out how to maintain their sense of humor, justice and whenever possible, their privacy. What is so interesting here is that their personal story parallels the history of the LGBT marriage and immigration equality movements. The film celebrates Richard and Tony’s long road to justice and citizenship and their challenge of the traditional definitions of “spouse” and “family.”
Critical moments in history are explored through the use of television news clips, newspaper headlines, radio announcements, Tony and Richard’s personal photos and letters, interviews, and animated graphics. Through artful juxtaposition, these sequences dynamically contrast Richard and Tony’s personal battle with the evolution of America’s values, the LGBT and mainstream marriage equality movement, and modifications in U.S. immigration policy.