Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Judge rejects bid to drop civil rights charges in Mass.

Judge rejects Cirignano’s bid to drop civil rights charges
by Ethan Jacobs
Bay Windows
Monday Jul 16, 2007

Larry Cirignano, executive director of Catholic Citizenship, gives a statement to police after allegedly pushing Sarah Loy at a VoteOnMarriage rally last December.
Worcester District Court Judge David Ricciardone issued a decision July 13 rejecting Larry Cirignano’s motion to dismiss the civil rights charges against him in connection to his alleged assault against a same-sex marriage supporter. Cirignano is facing civil rights violation and misdemeanor assault and battery charges for allegedly shoving Sarah Loy last December at Worcester City Hall, during a rally against same-sex marriage held by Cirignano was a speaker at the rally, and when Loy entered the VoteOnMarriage crowd with a sign announcing her support for same-sex marriage, Cirignano allegedly shoved her out of the crowd and onto the pavement.

Cirignano’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the civil rights charges, arguing that Loy had no right to enter the VoteOnMarriage crowd with her sign because it ran counter to the message promoted by the VoteOnMarriage demonstration. Among the cases cited by the attorney was the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that the organizers of the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade were free to ban a gay and lesbian group from marching because the group’s message conflicted with that of the parade organizers.

In his decision Ricciardone rejected that assertion, arguing that Loy’s right to express an opposing viewpoint is protected by the state and federal constitution. He said police may keep opposing groups separate at rallies to promote public safety, and he made no determination about whether or not Loy had crossed a boundary line set by police.

"In holding her sign at the rally here, the complainant was simply expressing a view contrary to that being generally supported. This is speech which is clearly and unassailably protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and by the Massachusetts Bill of Rights," wrote Ricciardone. "To conclude otherwise would allow the group that arrives at the city licensing office first to censor the free expression of speech in a particular area of the city at any given time. This is an unsupportable proposition under constitutional law."

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.

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