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Gay Man On Trial Seeks To Keep Partner From Testifying


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Gay Man On Trial Seeks To Keep Partner From Testifying

by The Associated Press

Posted: November 25, 2005 1:00 pm ET

(New York City) A gay man charged in an $11.2 million embezzlement case has asked a judge to rule that the state's marital privilege law, which protects husbands and wives from having to testify against each other in criminal court, also applies to same-sex partners.

Stephen Signorelli, of Manhattan, is fighting charges that he stole at least $219,000 from a public school district in Roslyn, N.Y., as part of a broader series of schemes that cost the district millions.

His domestic partner, Frank Tassone (pictured), the district's former superintendent, pleaded guilty this year to stealing $1 million between 1996 and 2002. As part of his plea bargain, he agreed to testify against other defendants in the case, which meant he might have to take the stand in Signorelli's trial.

In a motion filed before a judge in Nassau County, Signorelli sought to bar such an appearance, saying he and Tassone deserved the same protection as a heterosexual couple.

"Mr. Tassone and I have been loving partners for 33 years," Signorelli said in an affidavit, adding that the two had participated in "a solemn religious ceremony" conducted while they were on a Caribbean cruise, "to memorialize our relationship and love for one another."

The two also registered as domestic partners in New York City, where they live, in 2002.

"It's our position that the statute should be read gender-neutral," Signorelli's attorney, Kenneth Weinstein, told Newsday this week. "If a heterosexual couple can assert marital privilege, then a homosexual couple should be able to do the same."

Weinstein and an attorney for Tassone did not immediately return phone messages left at their offices on Friday.

Prosecutors have yet to respond to the motion and Judge Alan Honorof has not indicated how he might rule in the case.

©365Gay.com 2005


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