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20 Feb 2009

California firefighters win sexual harassment suit over gay pride parade

Four firefighters ordered to take part in a gay pride parade have been awarded over US$34,300 after successfully suing San Diego city for sexual harassment.

A California court ruled on Tuesday that San Diego city will have to pay US$34,300 in total to compensate four firefighters for lost earnings and emotional distress for having to march in the city's gay pride parade - an act that constituted sexually harassment.

Firefighters John Ghiotto, Chad Allison, Jason Hewitt and Alexander Kane. Photo from wnd.com.
According to media reports, Captain John Ghiotto, Jason Hewitt, Alex Kane and Chad Allison sued the city because they were ordered to drive a fire truck in the 90-minute San Diego gay pride parade in 2007 even though firefighters in previous gay-pride parades had reported being taunted with sexual innuendoes.

In the official Complaint of Discrimination document filed by Ghiotto and made available by Fox News, Ghiotto said that himself and his crew were subjected to crude comments, vulgar actions and simulated sex acts along the parade route. (See image above.)

Attorney Charles LiMandri also said his clients witnessed a man groping another man along the parade route, creating an offensive work environment.

The jury ruled that each of the four should receive US$5,000. One should receive an additional US$14,200 because he felt compelled to transfer to a different fire station after the incident, and another will receive US$100 as reimbursement for a co-pay for a counseling session.

The jury concluded after two days of deliberation that the Fire Department violated its own anti-sexual-harassment policy by forcing the four into the parade over their objections.

Jurors were unable to reach a verdict in the first civil trial last September. In that trial, the firefighters' attorney asked the jury to award each firefighter from US$500,000 to US$1 million.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Fire Chief Tracy Jarman, who marched in the parade, has changed departmental policy, making participation in parades voluntary. The city attorney's office, which represented the Fire Department in the lawsuit, plans an appeal.

United States

Reader's Comments

1. 2009-02-20 21:00  
Nobody should be forced to take part in a parade of any sort if they don't want to, but I'm not clear if they were on it as part of the parade, or for fire safety reasons (though I've never heard of anyone needing a fire engine on a parade before!).

That said I find it hard to believe a group of tough, butch, brave firemen who face death regularly were really afraid of a bit of attention from some excited queens. But if they were, they now know how women all over the world feel, who constantly face this sort of behaviour, and much worse, from straight men.
Comment #2 was deleted by its author
3. 2009-02-20 21:33  
the homophobes' paradise as it is in he real world... nothing has changed really...
4. 2009-02-20 21:48  
I certainly agree with steveuk's comment.
And looking at the picture of these guys they do not look that stressed to me.
Yet another pathetic case in the claims culture in the US.
Comment #5 was deleted by its author
Comment #6 was deleted by its author
7. 2009-02-21 06:15  
What is good for the goose is good for the gander!
There are low class morons in gay circles too. The organisers of the parade should have sued for discrimination, equally, and individually, if they were not subsequently.
"We serve with pride"...not that pride, anymore.

JP aka
8. 2009-02-21 06:21  
Couldn't they find 4 firemen (gay or not) willing to participate in the parade?
Comment #9 was deleted by its author
Comment #10 was deleted by its author
11. 2009-02-21 06:54  
Vandtboy (post 5), their behaviour was bad, but unfortunately yours (verbal abuse) is not much better.

The following is a well put point of view I came across elsewhere:

"I'm gay, and I sure as heck would not want to be forced by my employer to participate in some "Hooters" promotion during which I was repeatedly forced to deal with the sexual comments and gestures of straight people.

"So, when the shoe is on the other foot - as it is in this case - I can understand why these firefighters were upset and why they sued.

"It's important that Cities show unity and inclusion at Gay Pride Parades; it shows that we, too, are full-fledged and important tax-payers on equal standing with straight citizens. However, that does not, in my mind, clear a City of taking responsibility for what happens to its employees who are forced to represent the City at such events.

Straight or gay, people have the right not to be harassed."
12. 2009-02-21 09:59  
Being from San Diego I am angry and saddened by the verdict of this jury. These pussy firemen should have been sent packing without a single dollar. They were obviously looking for free money. Four jerks!!!! The fire chief is an out lesbian besides and should find some way to fire these ass holes.

Philip M. San Diego
13. 2009-02-21 11:09  
If they are not gay or dont want be part of the parade, they has made the right decision suiting the city. The compensation they got is not enough!
14. 2009-02-21 13:17  
Vandtboy, I wholehearted agree that gay pride parades need to evolve and reach out to the ordinary citizens, not turn them off by parading a bunch of semi-nude. You cannot change minds if you are dressed like a porn star, certainly not with parents who do not wish their kids to be exposed to sexually-charged behaviors. Besides, these parades do not reflect the majority of gay people, who are probably dressed in ordinary stuff and work clothes.

Blacks have learnt that being decked out in blings and talking thug may sell some records in the short term (as 50 Cent is finding out), but all that in-your-face posing will not get a black man into the White House.

However, I also agree with steveuk that your verbal abuse diluted the strength of your ideas.

We learn from every gay-related incident, and this particular one taught me much.
15. 2009-02-21 13:31  
I support the firefighters and am embarrassed by the gay communities actions. They definitely shouldn't be forcing any person, straight or gay to march in a gay parade. Is so sad but when I go to a Mardi Gras in sydney, i am more ashamed to be gay than proud. why does it all have to be about muscles and sex.
16. 2009-02-21 14:02  
Finally, at least one judge with common sense.

Nobody should be forced to march in a parade, especially one that does not represent the vaues or thoughts of forced participants.

I am gay and I would never march in a ga parade. I find them embarassing. My general experience is that they reinforce all the negative stereotypes that I reject as a gay man.

I understand and accept that some people like to reinforce those stereotypes and be wild and crazy, but that does not represent my idea of what being a gay man is.

My disdain at these events is not just directed towards gay parades, but also to any public event where peopel fail to maintain a proper social decorum that is respectful to thsoe around them.

Groping and grabbing, semi nudity, drunkeness, lewdness of any kind by any group of people is not socially acceptable in my book.

I will kiss and grope by bf at home or in an appropriate place , not in the broadview of the public eye.

17. 2009-02-21 14:09  
WHY didn't the firemen just call in SICK to work that day? Because one of them apparently spoke to a LAWYER (look how CAREFULLY that public statement is worded...they had coaching!) before the event who told them s/he would help them SUE the city for sexual harassment and make millions!!!
18. 2009-02-21 15:51  
Philip M. from SD, I'm going to have to disagree with you. Noone should be forced to participate in a parade if they do not wish to, especially if it is something they are not for. I don't understand why you think these firemen should be fired. So what if the fire chief is an out lesbian. Does that mean if your boss were a right wing christian conservative homophobe, that he should have the right to force you to represent your company at an anti gay rally? If you don't then should he or she have the right to fire you?
19. 2009-02-21 16:55  
Hmm . . . men suing men for sexual harassment . . I think that's quite progressive . . but do "show me your hose!" L.O.L
20. 2009-02-22 06:36  
the head of the fire department is definately gay himself...
21. 2009-02-22 07:30  
Oh, please. This was just an excuse to make a bit of money. Any man comfortable with his own sexuality would not feel threatened or harrassed by a group of gay men during a gay pride parade. And if they were, it's about time the tables were turned. How often are we as gay men threatened and intimated by straight men with no such recourse? It does sound like these men need counselling, but it should be tolerance training to deal with their insecurities and accepting of people in their community.
22. 2009-02-22 07:32  
What a big deal! Those firemen have no confidence of who they are and apparently they are homophobic. California has so much money to spare for such things!
23. 2009-02-22 08:28  
These guys joined the force to fight fires and save lives, not demonstrate how comfortable they are with their own sexuality.

Surely participation in such events should be voluntary for both gay and straight. I would certainly hope this was the case of any event that I may at times be associated with, which didn't reflect my own way of life.

I'm surprised by some of the views expressed below...
24. 2009-02-22 09:11  
This has nothing to do with whether or not they are homophobic. If they are, so what? They were forced to participate in the parade. Something that they were not comfortable with. The key word is FORCED.
The fire chief is a lesbian and she should know better. Suppose her boss forced her to have a firetruck participate in an anti-gay rally. You can bet she'd be up in arms over that.
Righthandful, you said " These guys joined the force to fight fires and save lives, not demonstrate how comfortable they are with their own sexuality." You right about that, their jobs are about saving lives and fighting fires. Nothing more, and that includes being forced to participate in a gay pride parade.
25. 2009-02-22 09:43  
No words for people who discrimate gay. if just like a favor like what you want only? if people who stick to religion and against gay. Then these people are senseless. The guy who create the religion then ask that time people to follow it. Now is new generation, why still want to follow some element that cannot use in this generation! Humans are live thing, religion is dead thing. why not human just selective pick up some good elements to follow and not all of it.
26. 2009-02-22 12:29  
I wonder if I go on my job at the 'straight' parade and somebody identifies me and call me 'gay', 'homo', 'queer' and other derogatory remarks, or if some lady passes a sexual gestures, wud i be compensated for mental torture?
27. 2009-02-22 12:38  
US$34,300 and they not even NAKED!!! What the @#$7*&XXXYZ!

Lala will take all 4 firemen at once... including the judge with my strap-on in front of huge FEMALE audience in the worl! Coz no woman being compensated that much while the shows for female exploitation is on all the times for centuries...

ITS PAY BACK TIME for all the male puxxies!!!
28. 2009-02-22 15:09  
If women get paid for this kind of stuff, then men can too. They shouldn't have had to do that parade.
29. 2009-02-22 21:50  
Notwithstanding the men being firefighters, they should not have been FORCED to take part in the gay parade or any parade for that matter - I'm sure it's not part of their job description. Since the fire chief is a lesbian , she should have no problems convincing her lesbian firefighters to join the parade instead - I'm sure they'll enjoy it, but then they wouldn't like to be FORCED to do it either. Let's not get too hysterical about the issue - this has got nothing to do with being homophobic., it's about the right of being able to say "No".
30. 2009-02-23 01:41  
The dark side of gay parades and the gay community - and that's just right here on this comment board! As a community that has been sidelined and discriminated against, I am aghast by how some people are so insensitive to the firefighters' feelings. C'mon guys, what's happened to 'equal rights'? That actually means equality for ALL, straight or bent. At the end of the day, if one needs to act lewd in public, this doesn't show confidence, but overcompensation for their extreme insecurity in their own sexuality.
31. 2009-02-23 02:37  
Based on the statement, it was a sexual harassment regardless of the gender. It is ridiculous that they were forced to join the parade. When our police officers and its pip band were in the pride march, people applaused and cheered for them. That's the difference between pride and abuse.
32. 2009-02-23 07:13  
omg who do we blame? well, i lived in L.A. for 14yrs and after three "gay pride parades", two
in san francisco and one in long beach am proud
to say "been there, done that". repreticious, repreticious, repreticious.. if the firemen knew that
these things were going to happen then so did the
city of san diego. so the city played right into the
hand of the firemen by forceing them to participate.
the city should be happy the judge used a common
sence amount to compensate the firemen..and not
the 500,000usd the lawyer wanted..
just like straight people there are always going to
be the good, bad, and ugly. sorry, it applies to gay men/women too. why, would you stand on
a parade route and do these lewed things to anyone entrusted with saving your life and home.
simple, those people will always represent the dark side of gay society and will alwys have us going "one step forward and two steps back" you
know one day in the u.s.a. thanks to them we will
probably see "hetro pride parades" ....lol.. so its
come down to live and learn..
33. 2009-02-23 10:24  
If what being described above really happened, the attitude of the gay community in SF is indeed very low & appalling. NOBODY should be forced to do things against their will,& this will only further serve to give homophobes justification to vilify the gay community even more.
34. 2009-02-23 17:43  
I am appalled with this article. Again , it's happening in AMERICA.

Why should 4 straight men be intimidated in a street carnival ? First of all it's a parade. The fun , the laughter etc ......it's all in the name of fun. Come on , if we don't this straighten , soooooon , we will have a case where there will be no fire fighters , no paramedics and other helpers in such parades. Only gay firemen , only gay docs , only gay what have you in a gay event.

We can turn the tables around ...we gays get tormented with remarks and sue for mental torture. What is happening ?????? Well you can make such money only in a place like the US. Sue and be sued. It's the name of the name.

I am lost for words. I think I am going to visit my lawyers and have a word with them and see if I can sue my co workers for calling me a bitch. I am suffering and depressed with the remarks. ( even though I enjoyed being called one )...see if I can also make some money !!!! hahahhaahahah
Comment #35 was deleted by its author
36. 2009-02-23 19:24  
Straightforward case given the lewd behaviour... But what if it was a gay pride event and the crowd is well behaved such as the parades in Taipei, Hong Kong, etc where there's no flashing and bad behaviour as described above?

If the firemen were asked to march at a more "harmless" event such as a Chinese New Year parade and they get wolf whistles from the crowd and are asked to "take it off" (from men and women), what would the result be?
37. 2009-02-25 07:57  
I believe that the firemen have done the right thing..no one should be force to do something. San Diego Fire Department should have instead notified these officers of the certain lewd behaviour that can occur in Gay Pride Parade. I believe that these firemen are not homophobic, i think they will acted the same if they saw women stripping naked, or touching each other's private parts in public and screaming 'fuck me' to them. People are unique in their beliefs and standards, its time for the GLBT community (or minority of us) to accept that, for us to recieve the same respect from the rest of the community.
38. 2009-02-26 22:48  
My best friend and his lover in San Diego told me that public opinion is definitely NOT supporting the firemen and their lawsuit.

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