Gay R.I. House Speaker Resigns Following FBI Raid
The openly gay Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives resigned his post Saturday after FBI officials raided his house and office Friday in connection to an unidentified but ongoing criminal investigation.
Gordon Fox, the 52-year-old Providence Democrat who helped bring marriage equality to Rhode Island in 2013, announced that he would resign as Speaker and would not seek re-election when his term expires, according to the Associated Press.
Noting his deep respect for the institution and his 22 years in the State House, Fox said he would not allow the investigation by the U.S. attorney's office — which reportedly involves the FBI, IRS, and state police — to distract he and his colleagues from governing.
"Because of the respect I have for all members of the House of Representatives, I am resigning as Speaker," Fox said in an emailed statement Saturday. "The process of governing must continue and the transition of leadership must be conducted in an orderly manner… My personal focus going forward will be on my family and dealing with the investigation. Because of the nature of this matter, I will not be commenting further."
State and federal officers arrived at Fox's home and statehouse office on Friday with search warrants and reportedly removed "boxes of evidence," the AP reports. Neither Fox, nor any law enforcement officials, would comment on who or what was being investigated.
Calling Fox "one of the state's most powerful politicians," the AP notes that Fox reached a $1,500 settlement with the state ethics commission earlier this year "for failing to disclose more than $40,000 in legal work for a Providence economic development agency," and had also come under fire for his support of a $75 million state loan to former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's video game company, which ultimately went bankrupt.
Fox, who came out in 2004, will likely be remembered for his involvement with the state's successful push for marriage equality last year — though he was criticized by some advocates in 2011 for backing a civil unions bill with broad religious exemptions rather than pushing for full marriage equality. At the time, Fox said he didn't believe there were enough votes to pass the bill through the Senate. Regardless, Rhode Island became the tenth state to embrace marriage equality on May 2 last year.
The AP notes that legislators are currently jockeying to fill Fox's post, with several claiming to have enough votes to assume the Speaker's gavel, and a possible Democratic caucus to be held as early as Tuesday to determine the next speaker. The new speaker will be named after Fox formally submits his letter of resignation.