Gay marriage backer allegedly pushed
By Richard Nangle TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER— A district court judge has refused to dismiss a civil rights charge against the former Catholic Citizenship executive director, who allegedly pushed a gay marriage supporter to the ground during an anti-gay marriage rally in December.
Larry Cirignano, 50, of Arlington, Va., is also charged with assault and battery in connection with the Dec. 16 incident outside City Hall.
“To paraphrase Chief Justice Roberts in a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, when our courts are called upon to determine to what extent, if any, speech may be infringed upon, we must give the benefit of the doubt to speech not censorship; the First Amendment demands just that,” Judge David Ricciardone wrote in a decision dated July 6.
At issue, with regard to the civil rights complaint, is whether Mr. Cirignano targeted the victim, Sarah Loy, 27, of Worcester, because she was holding a pro-gay marriage sign.
Judge Ricciardone wrote, “the state may not require organizers of a rally to include opposing groups as marchers in its parade, but it just as certainly can not prohibit the opposing groups from holding signs along the intended route. In holding her sign at the rally here, the complainant was simply expressing a view contrary to that being generally supported.”
In doing so, the judge wrote, Ms. Loy was “clearly and unassailably protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and by the Massachusetts Bill of Rights.”
The demonstration was timed to coincide with the state Legislature’s debate over whether the issue of same-sex marriage should go before the voters.
Ms. Loy was one of several people who held counter-demonstration signs during the afternoon rally when Mr. Cirignano, 50, who was living in Canton at the time, allegedly emerged from behind the lectern, grabbed her by both shoulders and said, “You need to get out. You need to get out of here right now.” Mr. Cirignano then allegedly pushed her to the ground.
Three witnesses told police they saw Mr. Cirignano push Ms. Loy “with force.”
Catholic Citizenship announced in January that Mr. Cirignano had resigned from the group to become the head of a new organization that would fight efforts to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. He has been ordered to stay at least 100 yards away from Ms. Loy and to have no direct or indirect contact with her.
Contact Richard Nangle by e-mail at email@example.com.
UPDATED: Bay Windows reports "Cirignano will be back in court August 20, and Tim Connolly, spokesperson for Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early, Jr., said there will be a trial date set at that hearing."