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Firefighters’ Suit Tossed Out After Being Forced To Participate In Gay Parade

The Rhode Island Supreme Court unanimously threw out a lawsuit by two firefighters claiming that their religious rights were violated as a result of being forced to participate in a gay pride parade, LGBT Weekly reports.

Firefighters Theodore Fabrizio and Stephen Deninno argued before the Rhode Island Supreme Court that the local fire department in Providence, Rhode Island, should have respected their religious freedom and allowed them to sit out the gay pride event.

The case dates back all the way to 2001, when Fabrizio and Deninno were told by the fire department to take part in a gay pride parade by driving a truck. Since Fabrizio and Denino are Roman Catholic, they asked for a reassignment, as homosexuality is against their religious beliefs. They were immediately refused. And as a result of being forced to participate in the parade, the two firefighters stated that they were subjected to sexual harassment from both event-goers and fellow co-workers.

After consultation, a lawsuit was filed in 2004 against the city’s mayor Buddy Cianci and fire chief James Rattigan. The entire case has taken 10 years to come to a close, but the weary firefighters haven’t come out with a victory.

“The respondents’ appearance in the parade, solely as members of the Providence Fire Department, did not constitute a form of expression on their part. Rather, it was simply the accomplishing of a task assigned to an engine company of the Providence Fire Department,” Justice William Robinson wrote, delivering a unanimous ruling on behalf of all five members of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Buddy Cianci was the first mayor of the city to serve as marshal for the local gay pride parade and has been heavily involved in gay rights activism in Rhode Island, having created the Office of Gay Liaison.

“Our policy was to send a fire truck to any parade that made the request, if one was available and the truck’s participation did not compromise public safety,” said Cianci. “Why should the gay-pride parade be any different than the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Purim Parade, or any parade in Providence? It shouldn’t, and it wasn’t.”

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