The Rhode Island Supreme Court today heard the case of two firefighters who are suing the city of Providence and former Mayor Buddy Cianci because 13 years ago they had to drive a firetruck during the pride parade. Which violated their religious freedom to be bigots, of course.
Following the nearly hour-long hearing, Cianci said he was astonished that 13 years later the case against him, former Fire Chief James Rattigan and the city is still alive. “In this day and age, I don’t know why we are here,” he said. “I hope this will be a victory for the gay community. They were taken to task and embarrassed [at the time].” Cianci noted that he was among the first mayors in the region to offer domestic partner benefits to gay couples. In the courtroom, lawyer Gina Decenso represented the firefighters, Theordore Fabrizio Jr., who is retired, and Stephen DeNinno, who is still with the department. She maintained that they were forced to join the parade against their wishes and were harassed afterward for their participation. She said she was “surprised” and “indignant” at Kevin McHugh, representing the city’s solicitor’s office, who called the case “ridiculous.” “Public employees cannot be compelled to support an ideology they do not support,” she said. McHugh countered that the firefighters’ Constitutional rights to free speech and religion were not violated and that they do not have the right to pick and choose which orders of their supervisors they will carry out.
RELATED: While an ally, Cianci is no angel, having been booted out of office twice. His first stint as mayor ended in 1984 following an assault conviction and in 2002 he was sentenced to four years in federal prison after being convicted of racketeering, corruption, extortion, and witness tampering. He is now again running for mayor of Providence, where he has never lost an election.