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Rhode Island Supreme Court Shoots Down Firefighters' Religious Liberty Lawsuit

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The Rhode Island Supreme Court has ruled that Theodore Fabrizio Jr. and Stephen Deninno, two Rhode Island firefighters, were not actually under social duress as claimed in their lawsuit against the state after being mandated to drive a firetruck in Providence's gay pride parade. The two firemen claimed to have endured “sexual harassment” and “sexual propositions and other offensive remarks” during the parade.

“There was no deprivation of a constitutional right,"  explained Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice William Robinson. “Participation in the parade as public servants carrying out a legitimate work assignment was not a deprivation of their constitutional rights."

Fabrizio and Deninno filed their initial suits against their former fire chief James Ratigan, the city of Providence, and former Mayor Vincent Cianci Jr., claiming that because they were Catholics they were entitled to abstaining from the parade.

"The respondents' appearance in the parade, solely as members of the Providence Fire Department, did not constitute a form of expression on their part," said Robinson. "Rather, it was simply the accomplishing of a task assigned to an engine company of the Providence Fire Department, and the individuals chosen to carry out that assignment cannot be said to have engaged in personal speech by carrying out their work as public servants."


Out Gay Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) Wins Re-Election

6a00d8341c730253ef017d3bfdb8e0970c-150wiOut gay congressman David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, has won his bid for re-election to the U.S. House of Representative. WLNE-TV reports:

Democrat David Cicilline has retained his seat in Congress after defeating Republican Cormick Lynch Tuesday night.

Cicilline was elected for a third term to represent the state's 1st Congressional District.

Before Congress, Cicilline was a two term mayor of Providence from 2002-10. He decided to run for Congress in 2010 after Representative Patrick Kennedy decided to retire.

As previously reported, Cicilline had "introduced a bill [...] to bar from the U.S. any foreigner who has “committed or incited gross violations” of human rights of LGBT people. Four of the seven openly gay members of the House signed on as co-sponsors: Reps. Jared Polis, Sean Maloney, Mark Pocan, and Mark Takano."


GLAD Sues Social Security Administration For Lesbian Widow Social Security Benefits - VIDEO

Tevyaw Baker

On Monday, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a lesbian widow seeking parity of Social Security benefits for married same-sex couples, reports Washington Blade.

The litigation was filed by GLAD in the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island on behalf of 56-year-old Deborah Tevyaw, who was denied spousal disability benefits and a lump sum death payment from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

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In 2005, Tevyaw was married in Massachusetts to Patricia Baker. Baker died in 2011 following a battle against lung cancer. In her final months, she lobbied for the legalization of gay marriage in Rhode Island, testifying on the issue before the state Senate.

However, despite the legality of the marriage, Tevyaw was denied benefits upon her Baker’s death. The SSA at first asserted the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) blocked her from receiving benefits. However, even after the Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of the law was unconstitutional, the SSA allegedly continued to deny Tevyaw benefits on the basis that Rhode Island wouldn’t have recognized her marriage at the time of Baker’s death.

Tevyaw has since been living on a monthly income of $732 and was forced to sell her home she owned for more than 38 years because she can’t afford the mortgage.

In a statement, Tevyaw said:

“I’ve lost my wife and my best friend, and Social Security has made that so much worse by telling me that in their eyes, I was not Pat’s wife. Not only is that hurtful and insulting, it has meant that I am living in poverty. I am not looking for a handout; this is money that Pat earned through hard work.”

The lawsuit also notes Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee’s executive order on May 24, 2012 recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages and contends the directive should apply to Tevyaw’s marriage even though Chaffee signed it before Baker’s death.

SSA spokesperson William “BJ” Jarrett said the agency agrees the issue behind the lawsuit “deserves additional consideration. He added that the SSA plans to review its policy manuals based on analysis of Rhode Island state common law.

Watch a 2012 interview with Tevyaw and Baker, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "GLAD Sues Social Security Administration For Lesbian Widow Social Security Benefits - VIDEO" »


Rhode Island Firefighters Allege Rights Were Violated Following Order To Drive In Gay Pride Parade - VIDEO

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A lawyer for Providence, Rhode Island has argued that former city mayor Buddy Cianci did not violate the rights of firefighters ordered to drive a fire truck in a 2001 Gay Pride parade, reports StarTribune.

A lawyer for the two firefighters yesterday told the Rhode Island Supreme Court that her clients' constitutional religion and free speech rights were violated when they were ordered to take part in the parade.

Representing Cianci, Kevin McHugh, who said the case is “ridiculous,” argued that the city sent trucks to various parades as a matter of course and driving in the 2001 Gay Pride parade was part of the firefighters' regular duties.

Although the firefighters' lawyer argued that the act of participating in the parade suggested that they supported gay rights, justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg said they are “anonymous public servants” and compared Cianci’s order to being called to fight a fire in a temple or in a mosque.

Cianci, who was forced from office in 2002 following a conviction for corruption and is currently in the midst of a campaign to win back City Hall, said if elected he would likely make the same decision again.

Back in June, Brett Smiley, another candidate for the mayoral race in Providence, claimed in a campaign video that he proposed to his husband Jim DeRentis with a PowerPoint presentation.

Watch an NBC report on the case, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Rhode Island Firefighters Allege Rights Were Violated Following Order To Drive In Gay Pride Parade - VIDEO" »


Providence Mayoral Candidate Brett Smiley Features Husband in Charming Campaign Ad: VIDEO

Smiley

Brett Smiley proposed to his husband Jim DeRentis with a PowerPoint presentation, or so says the Providence, Rhode Island mayoral candidate's new campaign ad. Thus, he's organized!

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Providence Mayoral Candidate Brett Smiley Features Husband in Charming Campaign Ad: VIDEO" »


Gay Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox Steps Down After FBI Raid of Office and Home

Gordon Fox, the gay Rhode Island House Speaker who helped bring marriage equality to the state in 2012, has resigned from his leadership post and will not run for re-election following a federal raid of his Statehouse office and home as part of a criminal investigation. AP reports:

Gordon fox"Because of the respect I have for all members of the House of Representatives, I am resigning as Speaker," Fox said in a written statement emailed to reporters. "The process of governing must continue and the transition of leadership must be conducted in an orderly manner."

The 52-year-old Providence Democrat, who became the nation's first openly gay House speaker in 2010, said he planned to serve out the remainder of his term through the end of the year, but that "my personal focus going forward will be on my family and dealing with the investigation."

The Friday raids were carried out by the U.S. attorney’s office, FBI, IRS and state police. Officials have yet to comment on the nature of the investigation.

Earlier this year, Fox ran into trouble with the state ethics commission for failing to disclose more than $40,000 in legal work for a Province economic development agency. He agreed to pay a $1,500 fine. 


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