Leading Providence: David Cicilline becomes the first openly gay mayor of a U.S. state capital. (Politics).David Cicilline David Nicola Cicilline (born 1961) is the current Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island. He is known as the first openly gay mayor of a US state capital.
Cicilline was born and raised in Providence and then Narragansett. His father, John F. remembers being at the headquarters for his Providence, R.I., mayoral campaign this fall when a prospective volunteer and voter walked in. "I was thinking of supporting your campaign," the man--a senior citizen and devout de·vout
adj. de·vout·er, de·vout·est
1. Devoted to religion or to the fulfillment of religious obligations. See Synonyms at religious.
2. Displaying reverence or piety.
3. Catholic--told Cicilline. "But first, I want to know what your gay agenda is."
"That's easy," Cicilline responded. "My gay agenda is for government reform, improving neighborhoods, and strengthening schools."
On November 5, 84% of the city's voters endorsed Cicilline's "gay agenda," making Providence the largest American city and first state capital with an openly gay mayor.
For Cicilline, the encounter with the volunteer that afternoon "was a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that gay people have the same dreams and desires as other citizens," he says. "That's why I always ran as a candidate who happens to be gay rather than a gay candidate. During my campaign the gay issue was irrelevant."
Though a few supporters of his Republican opponent made what Cicilline calls "vague hints" at his sexual orientation sexual orientation
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces. "by trumpeting the `family values' phrase," his competitors left the issue alone.
"It really hasn't been much of a topic of conversation or controversy, except for out-of-town reporters," says Darrell West, a professor of political science at Brown University in Providence and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions there.
But West believes the lack of controversy was "probably a historical fluke fluke, parasitic flatworm of the trematoda class, related to the tapeworm. Instead of the cilia, external sense organs, and epidermis of the free-living flatworms, adult flukes have sucking disks with which they cling to their hosts and an external cuticle that . I think it would have been a much bigger issue if not for the unique circumstances surrounding this election. Providence is generally a very traditional city with traditional voters," he says. This year, though, "the backdrop for the election liberated lib·er·ate
tr.v. lib·er·at·ed, lib·er·at·ing, lib·er·ates
1. To set free, as from oppression, confinement, or foreign control.
2. Chemistry To release (a gas, for example) from combination. voters to think of radical alternatives to theft typical choices."
The unique situation West is referring to is the April 2001 indictment of then-mayor Vincent Cianci Vincent Albert "Buddy" Cianci, Jr. (born April 30, 1941 in Cranston, Rhode Island) served as the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island from 1975 to 1984 and again from 1991 to 2002. Jr. on charges of racketeering Traditionally, obtaining or extorting money illegally or carrying on illegal business activities, usually by Organized Crime . A pattern of illegal activity carried out as part of an enterprise that is owned or controlled by those who are engaged in the illegal activity. , conspiracy, extortion extortion, in law, unlawful demanding or receiving by an officer, in his official capacity, of any property or money not legally due to him. Examples include requesting and accepting fees in excess of those allowed to him by statute or arresting a person and, with , bribery bribery
Crime of giving a benefit (e.g., money) in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust (e.g., an official or witness). Accepting a bribe also constitutes a crime. , mail fraud, and witness tampering This article or section may deal primarily with the U.S. and may not present a worldwide view. . A Republican-turned-independent who had been in office off and on for four decades, Cianci was the epitome of old-boy-network politics. His sentencing in June to five years in prison on corruption charges seemed to doom the Republican Party.
Indeed, September's four-way Democratic primary was considered the election that would determine Providence's next mayor. But even in that race Cicilline beat his closest competitor, former Providence mayor Joseph Paolino, by 20 percentage points.
Sexual orientation was more of an issue during the primary than it was during the general election because some gay residents worried that Cicilline was avoiding taking a public stand on gay issues. This led a gay group called Voices 4 Equality to back Paolino in the primary. The regional gay paper, In Newsweekly news·week·ly
n. pl. news·week·lies
A weekly newsmagazine or newspaper that reports current events. , also endorsed Paolino.
"We were aggravated ag·gra·vate
tr.v. ag·gra·vat·ed, ag·gra·vat·ing, ag·gra·vates
1. To make worse or more troublesome.
2. To rouse to exasperation or anger; provoke. See Synonyms at annoy. and frustrated frus·trate
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: because we didn't hear [Cicilline] talking about our issues," explains Garith Fulham, one of the organizers of Voices 4 Equality. "It was a very hard choice for us." The group now supports Cicilline's adminisration, he says.
Cicilline dismisses the charge that he was not "gay enough" and points to his record of eight years as a state representative. During that time--most of which was before he came out of the closet in April 1999--he sponsored legislation that now requires a "diversity officer" in public schools. He also cosponsored the state's gay rights bill as well as a bill that grants gay and lesbian state employees domestic-partner benefits. "Being openly gay has had no negative effect on my political career," he says. "If anything, it's enhanced it, because people respect my honesty about it."
A handsome, single, wealthy attorney from a well-known Rhode Island Rhode Island, island, United States
Rhode Island, island, 15 mi (24 km) long and 5 mi (8 km) wide, S R.I., at the entrance to Narragansett Bay. It is the largest island in the state, with steep cliffs and excellent beaches. family, Cicilline, 41, says his sexual orientation is just one piece of his diverse identity, which includes having a Jewish mother and Italian Roman Catholic father. "I think all of these factors affect my perspectives," he says. "They will help me be a better mayor because they help me identify with all different races, heritages, and ethnic backgrounds in the community."
This multicultural background "makes it easier for him to appeal to a broad constituency and avoid being painted as `the gay politician,'" says Jason Young, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which financially supports openly gay and lesbian candidates. Cicilline was one of those it supported this year.
One of the biggest challenges for Cicilline, Young says, comes with the differences between being an openly gay state representative and being an openly gay mayor. "He's no longer just one person in a large crowd," Young says. "He's the chief executive, and that means a lot more people, both in Rhode Island and nationally, will be watching him as an openly gay political figure.
"If he does a great job," Young adds, "people will not only trust him, they'll trust other gay and lesbian candidates." And if Cicilline does a great job in the eyes of the voters, he could be what Young calls "a gateway candidate, becoming the next openly gay congressman or maybe even the first openly gay U.S. senator."
Despite his insistence that he "was elected by all of Providence, gay and straight, and will be the mayor of all of Providence, gay and straight," Cicilline recognizes that he is in a powerful position to advance gay causes. His priorities include making the downtown safer for gay men and lesbians and requiring the City to offer domestic-partner benefits to its gay and lesbian employees. Eventually, he says, he'd like to require all contractors doing business with the city to offer domestic-partner benefits as well.
And he is acutely aware of the potential impact in being the gay mayor of the largest American city that has one. "You just can't underestimate the importance of being an openly gay elected official," he says, "because that still doesn't happen enough."
Dahir also writes for Serf, Business Traveler, and Good Housekeeping Good Housekeeping is a women's magazine owned by the Hearst Corporation, featuring articles about women's interests, product testing by The Good Housekeeping Institute, recipes, diet, health as well as literary articles. .