Richard Adams, who used both the altar and the courtroom to help begin the push for gay marriage four decades before it reached the centre of the national consciousness, has died, his attorney said Sunday.
After a brief illness, Adams died Dec. 17 at 65 in the Hollywood home he shared with Tony Sullivan, his partner of 43 years, attorney Lavi Soloway said.
"Theirs was a pretty remarkable story," Soloway said in an e-mail. "They were far ahead of their time when they took up the fight to have their legal Colorado marriage recognized by the federal government."
The two men met at a Los Angeles gay bar called The Closet in 1971. In 1975, they heard about a county clerk in Boulder, Colo., named Clela Rorex, who decided she would give marriage licenses to gay couples after learning from the district attorney's office that nothing in Colorado law expressly forbade it.
Among the first six couples to take advantage were Adams and Sullivan. Their primary motivation in marrying was to get permanent U.S. residency status for Sullivan, an Australian, and they put in an application with what was then called the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
They received a one-sentence denial from the INS that was stunning in its bluntness.
"You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots," the letter said, using a derogatory term for gays.
Adams' attempt to have that decision overturned was the first federal lawsuit seeking gay marriage recognition.