Richard Adams, 65, who used both the altar and the courtroom to help begin the push for gay marriage four decades before it reached the center of the national consciousness, has died, his attorney said Sunday.

After a brief illness, Mr. Adams died Dec. 17 in the Hollywood home he shared with Tony Sullivan, his partner of 43 years, attorney Lavi Soloway told the Associated Press.

"Theirs was a pretty remarkable story," Soloway said in an e-mail. "They were far ahead of their time when they took up the fight to have their legal Colorado marriage recognized by the federal government."

The two men met at a Los Angeles gay bar called "The Closet" in 1971.

In 1975, they heard about a rogue county clerk in Boulder, Colo., named Clela Rorex, a pioneer in her own right, who decided she would give marriage licenses to gay couples after learning from the District Attorney's Office that nothing in Colorado law expressly forbade it.

Rorex's office became what the New York Times soon after called "a mini-Nevada for homosexual couples."

Among the first six couples to take advantage were Mr. Adams and Sullivan, who traveled to Colorado, had a ceremony at the First Unitarian Church of Denver, and were granted a license from Rorex, before the state's attorney general ordered her to stop giving them to gay couples.

- AP