Richard Adams — Activist
b. March 9, 1947, Manila, Philippines
d. December 17, 2012, Los Angeles, California
“We really felt that people could achieve the life they wanted.”
Richard Adams filed the first U.S. lawsuit to seek federal recognition of same-sex marriage. What should have been the beginning of a happy marriage laid the groundwork for his almost 40-year quest for federally recognized marriage equality.
On April 21, 1975, Adams and his Australian partner, Anthony Sullivan, obtained a marriage license in Boulder, Colorado. They were married before the Colorado Attorney General declared same-sex marriage licenses invalid.
Adams applied to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for Sullivan to receive a permanent residency green card as the spouse of an American citizen. In response, the couple received an INS reply that stated, “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”
Adams lodged a formal protest. The INS reissued their denial without the slur. Adams filed a suit in federal court, but the judge upheld the INS. Adams filed a second federal suit claiming that after an eight-year relationship, deportation of Sullivan constituted extreme hardship. The federal district court and U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against Adams.
Subsequently, Sullivan requested permanent residency for Adams in Australia. The Australian government denied the request. In 1985 the couple moved to Britain. Adams left behind his family and friends and a job he had for over 18 years. After one year in Britain, the couple returned to the U.S. and kept a low profile so as not to attract INS attention.
Subsequent to Adams’s death and after the U.S. Attorney General in 2011 declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, Sullivan filed as Adams’s widower for a green card so he could remain permanently in the United States.
Tallulah Bankhead - Actress
b. January 31, 1902, Huntsville, Alabama
d. December 12, 1968, New York, New York
“Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”
A Hollywood celebrity, Tallulah Bankhead exemplified what it meant to be a liberated woman at a time when women were Victorian and marginalized.
Bankhead’s father was a conservative Southern Democrat who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1917 until 1940. Tallulah was raised in Washington, D.C., where she received a strict religious education.
A proponent of racial integration and civil rights, Bankhead’s political values starkly contrasted with those of her family. At age 15, she moved to New York City, where she made a name for herself as an actress and bon vivant both on Broadway and in London. In Motion Pictures magazine, Bankhead’s former assistant disclosed that the two had been sexually involved.
A self-described ambisexual, Bankhead’s sexual liaisons included the British theater actress Eva Le Gallienne and jazz legend Billie Holiday. Despite Bankhead’s notoriety, she was widely admired, including by President Harry Truman.
Bankhead’s colorful personality immortalized her in ways that few actresses have achieved. Despite her many scandals, turbulent relations and provocative nature, she is remembered as a beacon of civil rights and sexual liberation.
Allan Bérubé — Historian
b: December 3, 1946, Springfield, Massachusetts
d: December 11, 2006, San Francisco, California
“The massive mobilization for World War II relaxed the social constraints of peacetime that had kept gay men and women unaware of … each other”
Allan Bérubé is best known for his 1990 book, “Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two.” He posits that servicemen and women during the war found the freedom to explore sexuality in a relatively judgment-free environment.
When these soldiers returned home, many settled into a domestic heterosexual lifestyle that launched the baby boom. But a few, knowing they were not as “deviant” as they had been led to believe, decided to stand up against homosexual persecution.
Though Bérubé dropped out of college, he maintained a lifelong passion for scholarship. In 1976 Jonathan Ned Katz’s “Gay American History” inspired Bérubé to conduct his own research. He helped to form the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project.
In 1979 he created a slideshow titled “Lesbian Masquerade” about 19th-century women who had passed as men. The presentation became popular and was shown repeatedly in the San Francisco Bay area. Due to his local celebrity, Bérubé received from an acquaintance the letters of Harold Clark. These letters detailed Clark’s friendships with other gay men during World War II. Bérubé created a second slideshow lecture, which he toured with across the country.
His work inspired veterans to contribute their stories to the project. Thus began the 10-year journey that culminated in the publication of “Coming Out Under Fire.”
In 1990 “Coming Out Under Fire” received the Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men’s Nonfiction and influenced the U.S. Senate’s 1993 hearings on the exclusion of lesbians and gay men from the military. A documentary adaptation of the book won a Peabody Award.
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