Richard Corso: Why the Fight Against Ruggerio Matters to Me
“In the Senate, Ruggerio is not someone who votes no very often. So when he voted against our marriage, we knew he meant it. We knew exactly the message he was sending.”
I love my husband more than anything. We have been lucky enough to be together for 22 years, yet only married for less than half of that. A big reason for that is my state Senator, Dominick Ruggerio. Ruggerio, voted against our love when he voted against marriage equality. That’s why it hurts so much that some Senators have allowed Ruggerio to be elected Senate President.
What hurts perhaps the most is the hypocrisy. For years, members of the LGBTQ community were told we engaged in sexual immorality, that we were placing sexual pleasure before what was moral, that our love amounted to personal misconduct. I always felt that we were just following our hearts, that there was nothing immoral about love, about being who you truly are.
When Ruggerio was going out of his way to tell me and my husband that our love was wrong, when he was taking the unusual step of joining the Judiciary Committee ex officio just so he could vote against our love as many times as possible, I kept wondering how he felt he of all people could judge our morality. Because his own record, even on sexual matters, is far from reproach.
The Ruggerio record of scandals is so long you almost get lost in the sheer volume, number, and diversity of the scandals. The most famous, of course, is the condom shoplifting affair. The story is simple. The police arrested Senator Ruggerio coming out of a CVS. They searched him, and they found four packages of condoms he hadn’t paid for stuffed into his socks and his pants. Oops.
Now, look, I’m glad he’s using condoms. What I do question is what he might be doing with those condoms that made him so determined to keep them off a credit card statement. What I question is why he felt like he could flat out break the law. What I question is how he was able to keep the police from even pressing charges. What I question is how CVS decided, just this once, not to press charges for shoplifting. What I question is who Dominick Ruggerio is to tell me and my husband that we are immoral for just following our love and living our truth.
Of course, it’s not just the stolen condoms. There’s also the DUI. The Barrington police arrested him for erratic driving, saying he had “a strong odor of consumed alcohol” and “heavily slurred speech.” He refused a breathalyzer test. He put out a statement saying, “I accept full responsibility,” but apparently that did not mean stepping down from his powerful position as Majority Leader. As far as I can tell, his version of responsibility never means real consequences for Dominick Ruggerio. His version of responsibility was telling me and my husband to live lives that are a lie, locked in unhappy marriages with people we are not attracted to, instead of simply loving each other, proudly and openly.
His version of responsibility looks different for other people in general–even a different Senator who also voted against our marriage. At Senator Ruggerio’s DUI, Senator Ciccone showed up and began threatening the police on his behalf, telling them, “You think you got pension problems now? Wait until this shit is all done. This guy voted against you the last time. It ain’t gonna get any better now.” When the leadership team where Ruggerio served as Majority Leader decided someone needed accountability, it was Senator Ciccone they decided needed to take the fall. He got kicked off the Oversight Committee, where he had served as Chair. Ruggerio stayed Majority Leader, and a few years later, the Senate rewarded him by voting him Senate President. Senator Ciccone was right about one thing. Ruggerio had voted for the controversial pension cuts, and Ciccone had stood against the leadership on principle and voted no on the pension cuts. Ruggerio had learned a key lesson. If you want to avoid consequences for your actions, gain power yourself, and never ever stand up to challenge power. In the Senate, Ruggerio is not someone who votes no very often. So when he voted against our marriage, we knew he meant it. We knew exactly the message he was sending.
Richard Corso was a board member of Marriage Equality Rhode Island and has lived in Senator Ruggerio’s district for over ten years.