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This shocking 1975 letter shows how far the federal government has come on gay rights

On Tuesday, the federal argument will argue to the US Supreme Court that states' same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. But 40 years ago, one agency within the federal government used a considerably different tone against marriage equality — using an anti-gay slur to tell a gay couple their marriage didn't exist.

Here is the 1975 letter from a district director at the Justice Department's Immigration and Naturalization Service, posted by BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner:

doj same-sex marriage letter 1975
(Lavi Soloway, via Chris Geidner/BuzzFeed)

The letter — which states, "You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots" — was in response to Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan, one of the first gay couples in the nation to try to get their marriage recognized by the federal government. A renegade clerk in Colorado married the couple in 1975, and they tried to use the marriage so Sullivan, an Australian, could remain in the country. The Justice Department flatly rejected their request with the letter above.

The letter signals just how far support for gay rights has come over the past few decades. In 1977, Americans were evenly split — 43 percent to 43 percent — on whether consensual homosexual relationships should be legal, according to Gallup surveys. As of 2014, two-thirds of Americans say they should be legal — and it's hard to imagine a federal agency would get away with the language INS used in its response to Adams and Sullivan.

Watch: How marriage equality swept the country