Limited Partnership


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Limited Partnership
"This documentary brings an important personal dimension to the long struggle for equal marriage."

In Colorado in 1975, a quiet little wedding took place. It would go on to shake the foundations of American society. Due to the absence of anything in law that expressly said she couldn't, a feminist registrar (who didn't want to deny equality to others after fighting for her own) married Richard Adams to Tony Sullivan and accidentally caused a national scandal.

Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't actually the first same sex marriage in the country; that took place in 1971. It was particularly important, however, because Sullivan was born in Australia, so the two needed to get a spousal visa in order to stay together. Things didn't go to plan. All they had wanted was to protect their own relationship, but when a letter arrived telling them Sullivan would be obliged to leave the country because "you have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots," they realised that the whole system needed to change.

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Looking back on their story, this documentary brings an important personal dimension to the long struggle for equal marriage and points up the problems that being unable to get married can create. Sullivan talks of the despair he felt when he realised how much hate was out there, but listening to one critic rant about how if you let gay people marry then before you knew it they would want equal insurance and pension rights makes that hate, in retrospect, look more bizarre than meaningful. The speed at which America has undergone cultural change in relation to these issues makes parts of the film seem much older than they are, and emphasises the importance of collecting these stories now.

Both Adams and Sullivan come across as highly likeable, sympathetic people who enjoyed a lasting love that few couples experience. Awareness of this good fortune means that even in the bleakest parts of the film they never some across as moaning; they are always, simply, focused on a need to be together. The official line they were given that one gay relationship is the same as another so they could just get together with other people is challenged by what we see rather than by what we are told. There's a lot of legal detail in the film but it's delivered so fluently, in the midst of the personal story, that you'll hardly notice yourself being educated.

Necessarily limited in scope but engaging and informative nonetheless, this is a film that highlights the subtle effects of inequality on day to day life. If you think that the problems of two little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, it will show you at least one instance in which, eventually, they did.

Reviewed on: 10 Feb 2015
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Limited Partnership packshot
Two men who married in Colorado in 1975 recall their struggle for true equality and talk of the love that kept them going.

Director: Thomas G Miller

Starring: Tony Sullivan, Richard Adams

Year: 2014

Runtime: 76 minutes

Country: US

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