FFF 2015 Day 7 Limited Partnership

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On of the First Legal Gay Marriage License in the U.S.--In 1975!

One of the First Legal Gay Marriage Licenses in the U.S.–In 1975!

Sandorkraut
When Sandor Katz left his political career and moved off the grid to rural Tennessee, he discovered the ancient art of fermentation. He has since become the consummate authority on all things fermented, such as sauerkraut. He lives in an artistic, rustic home. The filmmaker is an artist in his own right who captured the throwback hippie perfectly. Very high quality production values and directorial choices make this film not only educational and interesting to watch, but a fine work of art.

Limited Partnership
Like every member of the audience, tears are rolling down my face. This was a beautiful story about the first gay man, Anthony (Tony) Sullivan, to petition the US Government for the right to be granted a green card on the basis of his legal marriage to another man, Richard Adams. They were married on 21 April 1975.

Yes, 1975. Before being forced to cease, Boulder County married six gay couples in that year.

The official response from the U.S. government’s immigration services to Tony’s request for a green card would be inconceivable today. Tony received a letter that stated, “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.” A follow up letter of clarification was even more offensive. It contained the viewpoint that one of them could not fulfill the female duties and functions or obligations inherit in the marital situation.

The incredible power of this documentary lies in the two protagonists and the steadfast love and devotion they so obviously shared along with a kindly, gentle spirit with which they address their detractors. These are very special people. The documentary chronicles their 40 year struggle to get permission for Tony to legally reside in America with his spouse.

In 2012, as this documentary was coming to a close and our nation was taking a huge U-Turn in our attitudes towards gay marriage, Richard Adams passed away from lung cancer. Today and unbeknown to the audience, Tony Sullivan was sitting in the Enzian theatre watching the movie with us. Mrs. LanceAround and I had an in depth interview with Tony after the movie. We’ll write a detailed blogpost about that later. Here is the Q & A between Tony and the audience who watched the film with him.

Q & A with Tony Sullivan

Tony: Before the first question, I have to say one thing. I was the loud mouth in the family. Richard always sat back. A lot of people didn’t pay any attention to Richard, this wonderful man that I shared 40 years of my life with. He was a truly unique and wonderful, loving person. I’m so very lucky a human being to have had him in my life! [Generous applause from the audience]

Q: It’s so hard to watch this. It still hurts…

A: It’s hard to watch but also it reminds me as time passes as you lose someone they fade away in time. You start to lose the image of them. I had the luxury of being able to see him, as he was, to hear him, as he was; to see the love in his eyes. At first, when the film was made, it was very difficult for me to watch it. Now I’m beginning to understand that what the filmmaker did has made me grateful.

Q: I don’t know anything about the immigration process, were there other options for getting your green card?

A: I did get married for convenience, to a woman. We have this in Australia. It’s totally a legal and accepted thing. She and I got married and went to the immigration interview. My green card was sitting on the table. And the official wanted to know when had we last had sex. I’m from another culture. I recoiled at the question, absolutely recoiled. I didn’t think any government official had the right to ask that question. It just repulsed me. We never had sex. I was a gay man, she was a happy heterosexual woman. So when I came out of the interview I said to her, “I think we need to annul this marriage.” I came home and I said to Richard, “This is wrong. If they want to know who I have sex with, maybe I should tell them.” We discussed the injustice that went on and decided that someone, someplace needs to do something about this. Then the awful question comes up in a time like this, “Oh dear, why not us?” Someone knew a judge in San Fernando Valley and suggested we go and talk to him. I went and talked to him (I still have his name and phone number in my file.) I went and talked to this judge and he said, “Oh yes, give me $10,000 and I’ll have your green card in days. I’ll give $5000 to an attorney and I’ll keep $5000 myself.” Strangely enough, even though I’m fighting a system on injustice, I couldn’t do criminal things. That, to me, is not acceptable. After that, I went to another state to get the marriage annulled. And the attorney who handled that told me he was the attorney for Frank Sinatra. He said, “Go down the street with me, I’ll get you a green card today.” By that time Richard and I had decided to fight the issue. So I said to him, “No thanks, we’ve got something else in mind.” So, yes, I’ve had some opportunities to get a green card, but we didn’t pursue them.

Q: What advice would you give to the younger activists about going through the issues we have in our day now and how they can stay positive as well as getting more involved.

A: You have to be an optimist. You have to have faith in achieving something. If you don’t achieve it straight away, you know it’s the old expression about losing the battles but winning the war. The battles in the early days were the ones we lost one after another. One of the most famous ones of all being here in Florida. Retain your integrity. You get opportunity after opportunity to settle or compromise, etc. Decide what you believe in; what you really believe in, not what your friends tell you to believe in. Keep that in focus. The other thing I want to say, especially for the gay and lesbian movement, look at the history and philosophy of the feminist movement. For me, I had an amazing source of strength from that. To me, the feminist movement is as profound as the professed beliefs of Christians. I find the words written as the words of Christ…I get a lot of strength from that. The woman’s movement preaches the same thing. If you look to that and then adapt it, which in the gay and lesbian movement gay men should be doing anyhow, I find tremendous strength in that.

Q: Did you get a green card?

A: Haven’t got my green card yet. Sometime last year I wrote a letter to President Obama asking for an apology to Richard. I felt that, as a citizen of the United States he did not deserve to have that letter stuck in the record for him. On the first day of Obama’s new head of immigration being in immigration, at President Obama’s instigation, he wrote a letter in which they apologized for the “faggot” letter.

Q [From LanceAround]: Putting all the issues of this movie aside, how old were you when you came from Australia and what made you decided to make this country your home?

A: America was never a choice of country that I’d want to come to. It was probably the least country I was interested in coming to. I came here in 1971 to see a friend of mine who was the Editor of The American Cinematographer and that’s when I met Richard. I was on my way to England. I had absolutely no intention of staying in America. I didn’t want to stay in America. I didn’t like the politics of America. I didn’t like the politics of Australia at the time, either. I met Richard and we had a thing of communication–an old fashioned thing called the mail–when I was in England. He asked me to come back here and I came back. That’s an unusual thing that makes our case–I was in America because of Richard. There was absolutely no other reason. It took me a long time to adapt to the country. The culture shock was enormous. Now I realize I’m more American than Australian. Even though I’m very critical of the country–I feel everyone should be critical of America–I do want to say this. If we had done what we did in any other country, we would have gotten a hearing. The way they would have solved the problem is they would have rolled around on the floor, laughing their heads off. And we would have been dismissed with humor. Even though I was one of those cranky people who didn’t believe in the government, I have to say America gave us the opportunity to have a life together. Now I’ve come to realize that I’ve become more American than Australian which I never thought would happen.

Q: Can I ask about your mother? [The movie indicates she disowned Tony]

A: I rang her on my 40th birthday to say, “I’d think you’d be thinking of your son on his 40th birthday.” It was a frigid phone call. She also told me if I was ever back in Sydney to not get near her. Richard and I were in Sydney and we walked past and I said to Richard, “There’s my mother’s place.” and he said, “Are you going to go in?” I said, “No.” My mother was a very disturbed woman. One thing we didn’t know about in those days is that she was chemically dependent on prescription pain killers. When I came back here she and I hadn’t communicated. She died in the early 80s. In fact, I only learned last year my whole family for the last 20 years had been told I was dead. Those things happen.

Reactions From the Audience
“I learned something that I’ve never known about before. It’s like going to another country,” shared one film goer.

“Heart wrenching, informative, times are moving very slowly,” says Aviva. “How do you spell that?” I ask. “A-V-I-V-A, the same backwards as forwards,” she replies.

After several movie goers indicate they don’t want to talk, I say to Mrs. LanceAround, “They don’t comment as much when the film is very evocative.”

A group of UCF students who were helping to promote the film exit the theatre. “This was our second time seeing the film, both educationally and emotionally it really works,” says one. “We’ve seen the film a couple weeks ago to prepare for this. And just seeing him sitting there it was really…” “walking in and just, like turning there and seeing him there  was really…”chimes in his friend, both unable to find the right words.

“It was fantastic. It was lovely,” raves a frequent movie goer.

“That was one seriously powerful movie, wasn’t it?” says Sigi, “Yes it was,” I agree. “Oh my goodness,” she continues, “What a story it was!”

 

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