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Catholic leader
charged in attack on pro-gay activist

Catholic leader
charged in attack on pro-gay activist

Police have filed an assault charge against the executive director of Boston-based Catholic Citizenship in the attack on a woman protesting the group's antigay rally Saturday outside City Hall in Worcester, Mass. Sarah Loy, 27, a straight supporter of same-sex marriage, says she was pushed to the ground by Larry Cirignano at the rally.

Cirignano, 50, Catholic Citizenship's leader, used the rally to call on the Massachusetts legislature to vote on a proposed state constitutional amendment to halt same-sex marriages there. Last month state lawmakers recessed for the year without acting on the antigay proposal.

Loy, who attended with her husband and a few gay allies, went to the rally and staged a counterprotest. She held a sign saying "No discrimination in the constitution." When Cirignano saw Loy, she said, he stepped down from the podium and lunged at her, tackling her to the ground.

"You need to get out. You need to get out of here right now," he threatened as he pushed her, her head slamming against the concrete sidewalk, according to the Worcester Telegram &Gazette.

The rally continued without any protest from the Catholic group, as a teary Loy yelled, "That's what hate does, that's what hate does," before leaving the scene.

Tom Lang, a same-sex marriage supporter in Loy's group, said the attack was surprisingly aggressive. "What was so unusual and calculated about Larry Cirignano's assault on Sarah Loy was that he left the podium area right after he gave his speech and pushed Sarah to the ground," he said. "This was not your average 'heated moment.' This was a premeditated, aggressive, and uncalled-for assault by the president of the Catholic Citizenship on a young lady who was exercising her right to assemble, protest, and voice her free speech."

In a statement e-mailed to reporters, Cirignano said he just "escorted the lady back into the crowd.... I never touched her shoulders, and she apparently thought that she could draw a foul like it was a basketball game by falling down."

"Great theater, not Academy Award material," he added.

MassEquality campaign director Marc Solomon called for Cirignano to "clean out his desk." "Sarah Loy had every right to peacefully hold her ground, and this aggressive action by a leader of the opposition should not be allowed to stand," Solomon said in a written statement. "This was more than intemperance. Individuals can make mistakes, but movement leaders must respond to a higher standard. In this, Mr. Cirignano clearly failed, and he should go."

Catholic Citizenship was founded by former Boston mayor Raymond Flynn to guide Catholics in political activism, TheBoston Globe reported. A court hearing on the misdemeanor assault charge is pending. (Hassan Mirza and Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate)

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