Justice Kennedy’s First Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Justice Kennedy’s First Same-Sex Marriage Ruling April 21, 2015

Here’s a fascinating article about a same-sex marriage that took place in 1975 and was declared illegitimate by a federal judge. That federal judge was none other than Anthony Kennedy, who has authored the only three victories for LGBT equality in the history of the Supreme Court.

The license shows that Anthony Corbett Sullivan and Richard Frank Adams were married April 21, 1975, in Boulder, Colo., years before others thought two men should be allowed to wed and decades before a majority of Americans would say it was okay with them, too.

The letter is the official response from the U.S. government after Adams informed officials of his nuptials and asked that his new husband, an Australian citizen facing deportation, be extended a spouse’s visa.

Denied, the immigration service said, for the following reason:

“You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

Yes, an official government document actually said that. Sullivan and Adams then filed a federal lawsuit demanding recognition of the legality of their marriage.

But there is one more twist, and it makes their story especially compelling as the Supreme Court considers this month whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The judge who wrote the final word on whether Sullivan and Adams could stay together in the United States or be forced to strike out in search of a country that would take them was Anthony M. Kennedy, then a circuit judge and now the Supreme Court’s pivotal justice on gay rights.

But in 1985, it was Kennedy’s ruling — not about the government’s ugly language, but about whether immigration officials eventually were justified in their decision to deport Sullivan — that led Adams and Sullivan to board a TWA flight to London.

Sullivan would never have guessed that Kennedy would become the Supreme Court’s leader on gay rights, but he doesn’t criticize the justice for the decision in his case.

Kennedy had little choice about the matter. As a district court judge, he was bound by precedent. But who would have guessed that he would eventually become the most important justice in the history of the country?

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