Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Richard Frank Salanga Adams was a Filipino-American gay rights activist. He was born in Manila in 1947 and came to the USA at 12 with his family. In 1975, he married long-time boyfriend, Tony Sullivan, an Australian, so Tony would be able to stay in the US (as was the case for Richard’s mother and stepfather). However, the INS nastily declared the same-sex marriage invalid for the purposes of providing Tony clemency. Richard then filed the first federal lawsuit in the USA, Adams v. Howerton, seeking recognition of a same-sex marriage by the federal government. Though he lost the lawsuit, and Tony was deported (before covertly returning to the US), Richard set the marriage equality movement in motion for same-sex couples to be afforded the same rights as heterosexual couples- including being able to sponsor spouses for citizenship. [Side note: Anthony Kennedy, then an Associate Judge who ruled against Richard and Tony, setting Tony’s deportation in motion, would later as a Supreme Court Justice rule same-sex marriages were protected by the United State Constitution.] Richard passed in 2012 and in 2016, the government posthumously honored his petition and granted a green card to his widower.