1975 March 25

First Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S.?


In what some people regard as the first same-sex marriage in the U.S., Richard Adams, his partner Anthony Sullivan, and five other gay couples were granted marriage licenses in Boulder, Colorado, on this day. The licenses were  issued by County Clerk Clela Rorex, until the state attorney general ordered her to stop. Later in 1975, Adams and his partner/spouse Tony Sullivan applied to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to obtain permanent resident status for Sullivan, who had immigrated to the U.S. The application was denied, and the letter from INS declared that they had “failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

Richard Adams died on December 17, 2012.

The political and legal climate on same-sex marriage changed radically in the 2000s. A growing number of states legalized same-sex marriage, and a few years later federal courts began striking down state prohibitions on same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court declared a major provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional on June 26, 2013 in the case of Windsor v. United States, ruling that the federal government had to recognize legal same sex marriages. In the year following the Windsor decision, a number of federal courts declared state prohibitions of same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, and another major Supreme Court case on this issue seemed inevitable.

On June 26, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hudson, the Supreme Court declared that same-sex marriage was constitutional in the entire United States under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Learn about Richard Adams:

Read about the history of the GLBT revolution: Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle (2015)

Learn more: http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/the-first-same-sex-marriage-license

Learn more at a timeline on same-sex marriage in America: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/pages/history-and-timeline-of-marriage

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