An Australian man widowed by his American husband of more than three decades made a renewed pitch Monday for a green card in a bid to reverse a denial of their 1975 petition for legal residency.
Anthony Sullivan, 72, asked federal immigration authorities in Los Angeles to reopen a petition filed by his late husband Richard Adams so Sullivan can be awarded residency as the surviving spouse of a U.S. citizen, immigration attorney Lavi Soloway said.
The request came decades after the couple sued and lost an early effort to win immigration benefits for same-sex married couples, and less than a year after the Obama administration eased its policies on gay marriage. Adams died in 2012 in the couple's Hollywood home.
"It doesn't matter how much time has passed and it doesn't matter how long it took to figure it out," Soloway said. "He and Richard sustained a constitutional injury for 40 years, and that should be corrected."
Claire Nicholson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, declined to comment on the case.
The agency that oversees immigration benefits began issuing green cards to married gay couples last year after a Supreme Court ruling struck down a law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing married same-sex couples.
Since then, Soloway said, he has represented more than 100 couples seeking immigration benefits related to marriage, including those whose American spouse died before they got green cards.
The difference in Sullivan's case is that his marriage predates the law, and the reason given for denying the couple's petition was simple "bigotry and discrimination," Soloway said.
Sullivan and Adams met in Los Angeles in 1971. They wed in Boulder, Colo., in 1975 after hearing about a county clerk who was giving marriage licenses to gay couples.
The men applied for a green card for Sullivan but were denied. After the courts shot down their appeal, they left the country and stayed with friends in Europe briefly in the mid-1980s but soon returned to Southern California where they lived until Adams died, Soloway said.
Sullivan, who overstayed his visa, would have celebrated his 39th wedding anniversary on Monday.
Clela Rorex, the former Boulder clerk, said she is amazed that issues surrounding gay marriage are still not resolved. She issued a marriage license to a gay couple in 1975 after they were denied by a clerk in nearby, more conservative Colorado Springs, and the local district attorney said the law didn't bar her from doing so.
"I really want to live long enough to see marriage equality across the country and not a piecemeal thing among the states," said Rorex, who resigned after 2 1/2 years because of opposition to her decision.