A GAY Australian man living in California has asked for a decision made four decades ago that denied him permanent residency to be overturned.

Last Monday, 39 years to the day after he married his American boyfriend, Anthony Sullivan (pictured) petitioned the US Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) to finally grant him a green card.

If successful, Sullivan will be allowed to legally remain in America following the death of his husband Richard Adams in 2012.

Now 72, Sullivan and Adams met at a Los Angeles gay bar in 1971.

Four years later, the couple got married in Boulder, Colorado after hearing of a county clerk issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.

Immediately afterwards, and armed with his wedding documents, Sullivan applied for a green card as a spouse of a US citizen.

However, the then-Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) turned down the application with the official reason given that: “You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

Sullivan and Adams subsequently became the first same-sex couple to sue the US government to have their relationship recognised, but ultimately lost their battle 10 years later.

Lavi Solway, Sullivan’s solicitor, said the case would test American values of equality and justice.

“We are asking the federal government, at long last, to treat this marriage with the dignity and respect it deserves, and, in so doing, to repudiate the unacceptable and hateful language that was used by INS in 1975,” he said.

Last year, the US Supreme Court struck down the Defence of Marriage Act, which had prevented the legal recognition of married same-sex couples.

Following the court case, the USCIS was instructed to recognise same-sex marriages for immigration purposes.

Solway added that “the widows and widowers of gay and lesbian Americans who seek to resolve their immigration status must have access to the provisions of law already available to other surviving spouses of US citizens.”

Clela Rorex, the former country clerk who approved Sullivan and Adams’ marriage application, said she was surprised outstanding issues regarding same-sex marriage had still not been resolved.

“I really want to live long enough to see marriage equality across the country and not a piecemeal thing among the states,” she told the Associated Press.

Rorex resigned from her post following opposition to the issuing of marriage licences to same sex couples.

(Main photo by Erin Taylor)

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