Independent Lens: Limited Partnership

About This Episode


Limited Partnership chronicles the 40-year love story between Filipino American Richard Adams and his Australian husband, Tony Sullivan. In 1975, thanks to a courageous county clerk in Boulder, Colorado, Richard and Tony were one of the first same-sex couples to be legally married in the world. Richard filed for a green card for Tony based on their marriage, but unlike most heterosexual married couples, he received a denial letter from the Immigration and Naturalization Service stating, “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

Outraged, the couple decided to sue the U.S. government, initiating the first federal lawsuit seeking equal treatment for a same-sex marriage in U.S. history. The film follows Richard and Tony’s personal trajectory, which parallels the history of the LGBT marriage and immigration equality movements, from their 1971 meeting at an L.A. gay bar called “The Closet;” to the 1975 signing of their marriage license in Colorado; through the era of AIDS; and all the way up to the historic U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage in June 2013 and again in 2015.

Through it all, even when confronted by health issues, money woes, and legal challenges, these two trailblazers never wavered in their love, never lost their senses of humor, and never gave up their quest for justice.