Firefighters | Gay Pride | News | San Diego

San Diego Firefighters Sue Dept for Gay Pride Sexual Harassment

Four of San Diego's city firefighters have filed a request with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing asking for the right to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department after they say they were forced to participate in the San Diego gay pride parade that took place on July 21. The firefighters say that while taking part in the parade they were sexually harassed, according to 10news:

Sdfirerescue"During the parade, the firefighters said, bystanders taunted them with sexually explicit comments and colleagues called to tease them for participating in the event. 'I was forced into a situation that would compromise what I hold true and what I believe in,' engineer Jason Hewitt said in a statement. The four contend the department failed to protect them from sexual harassment and didn't immediately act to correct the situation, Stirling said."

JarmanFire Chief Tracy Jarman, a lesbian, has apologized to Fire Capt. John Ghiotto, Engineer Jason Hewett and firefighters Chad Allison and Alex Kane and says she's having the the city's Equal Employment Investigative Office take a look at the situation, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The city's firefighters have participated in the gay pride parade for the last 15 years without incident.

Says CBS8: "They're trained to risk their lives battling fires, but some local firefighters suggest nothing could have prepared them for the insults and obscenities they faced at this year's gay pride parade."

The Union-Tribune reports: "In statements filed with the state, the men said that along the parade route, they were subjected to offensive lewd comments such as, 'You can put out my fire,' and saw men blowing kisses at them. Then, they said, they had to endure protesters who yelled at them that homosexuality was a sin. Some comments were too risque to print."

So, according to the paper, they had to endure men complimenting them for their looks, as well as experience first-hand the religious bigotry gay people must endure every day.

Poor things.

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  1. indeed, call the waaaaambulance.

    Posted by: allan | Aug 7, 2007 9:38:54 AM

  2. Firemen have a point, It's not right for them to be compelled to participate in activities outside their job be it a gay pride or a Christmas parade.

    I'm sure Jarman could have asked for volunteers.

    Posted by: Tom | Aug 7, 2007 9:40:13 AM

  3. It should come as no surprise that most firehouses are like any other boys club, and are constantly full of frat-guy-esque quips about blowing each other and many a man-on-man act 'too risque to print.' That these guys claim they were unprepared for 'you can put out my fire' is laughable, pathetic, a waste of time and money, and yes, homophobic.

    Posted by: GBM | Aug 7, 2007 9:41:26 AM

  4. How WILL they manage to cope?

    If I had known that those big butch firefighters would crumple like a little old lady's tissue the second I blew a kiss at them, I'd have done it long ago.

    As for the christianist haters, get a grip. If I could handle it as a teenager, then those firemen can just freaking relax.

    Posted by: Brian | Aug 7, 2007 9:42:13 AM

  5. Funny how when the tables are turned, the queens say people are "whining" but if the straight fireman gave them so much as the evil eye, they would cry prejudice and harassment.

    I applaud the straight fireman for standing up for themselves for this...they don't deserve to be taunted by queens who have no respect for others.

    Posted by: good... | Aug 7, 2007 9:51:33 AM

  6. I'm in agreement w/ Tom... they shouldn't "have" to have participated in the event (as it sounds like they did).

    And, I'll admit - it does feel a little good to know that they experienced just a little of what LGBT people go through.

    Posted by: gabriel | Aug 7, 2007 9:58:43 AM

  7. What a bunch of crybabies. They weren't sexually harassed, they were freaked out by the idea of guys being attracted to them. This is an abuse of the judicial system.

    Posted by: sam | Aug 7, 2007 10:00:16 AM

  8. No Good..., what's 'funny' is how you are so quick to downplay anti-gay harrassment, as if all us queens are keen on crying wolf and only have to deal with an occasional mean look. I don't know about you, but I've encountered a heck of a lot worse in life, much more violent, much more hateful, much more intimidating, and so if I feel like anti-sexual harrassment laws are being misused for fostering homophobia, then, yes, permit me to 'whine.' Sexual harassment isn't just about mentioning sex in the workplace, but using sex to bully people into uncomfortable and compromising situations.

    Posted by: GBM | Aug 7, 2007 10:07:06 AM

  9. i kind of disagree with the attitude on these comments. why should anyone have to put up with sexual taunts while doing something they were forced to do through work? thats the bottom line here. you may not like it, and you may think that as gays your victimhood gives you special rights to behave however you want to regardless, but the fact is that these guys have a case. they were told to do a job and in the course of that job they were sexually harassed. thats not right. it shouldn't have happened. if gay people can't treat others with the same respect they claim to want for themselves, then they shouldn't bitch when people object. seriously guys, just because you got picked on in school, doesn't give you a e-ticket to be in immature ass for the rest of your life.

    Posted by: dan | Aug 7, 2007 10:12:23 AM

  10. I'll second (and third) comments from above: the firefighters shouldn't have been forced to participate (if, indeed, they were). This sounds, however, suspiciously like some axe-grinding-- People this blatantly homophobic surely don't take kindly to a lesbian boss. Check out the comments (and the sensationalistic, biased version of the story) over at WingNutDaily:

    Posted by: Acolyte | Aug 7, 2007 10:17:32 AM

  11. Perhaps you missed this part:

    "I was forced into a situation that would compromise what I hold true and what I believe in," engineer Jason Hewitt said in a statement. [read: "I should be allowed to hate gay people even while on duty, and decide which citizens I assist in parades"]

    also key:

    "The Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian legal organization based in Michigan, is helping represent the plaintiffs."

    Posted by: GBM | Aug 7, 2007 10:21:58 AM

  12. Meanwhile the NYFD is being sued by the federal gov for its discriminatory hiring practices hmmm...

    Posted by: Giovanni | Aug 7, 2007 10:25:47 AM

  13. So if someone does not want to hear from a gay man: you can put out my fire they are homophobic. Hmmm, how about come on over to the dark side (black) or once you eat me you will want more (Asian) that person is a homophobe or about the person does not want to hear any of that at all...people tend to act of and then fall back on their "color, race, sexuality" as a cushion for simply bad, tasteless and rude behaviors and that needs to stop.

    It is a shame that firefighters have been reduced to "sex symbols" and "fodder for porn scenes"; this is not who they really are. Yes there are those firehouses that print calendars to raise money for burn victims and other charities. It is the only way the general population cares about their hard efforts or maybe after they save them from a burning building.

    Now if a gay person goes against the flow of thinking of the other gays then that person is self-loathing. How about this person has some standards that go outside of the prescribed gay arena that allows him/her to exist as an individual and treat people better than others have; also I do not rely on my sexuality to permit me to be immature and childish to others. Can you say the say?

    Gays are really starting to use the term homophobic to shield their ill behaviors towards others. Gays are learning that there is power in this word even in its misuse. BTW: I have never seen or experienced the cruelty or dismissal as a person from straights as I have from gays. Let’s be honest: gays are not all that inclusive and understanding; sure that is the image that is heavily portrayed out there that we are getting along but we all know the truth: from terms as Rice Queen, Snow Queen and the list goes on and on; do not get me started on the body and money issues that are present. Gays are just like their straight brothers in their cruelty: how many gays are committing suicide because of the inside evil behaviors of the gay world.

    The bottom line all of these tactics are used to stall or derail the fact that yes the gay men were wrong in their comments to the firefighters. Yes, that is right in this case the gays are wrong in their treatment of these firefighters.

    Posted by: TheTruth | Aug 7, 2007 10:28:29 AM

  14. Shorter Jason Hewitt: I'm a fundie and believe I should have equal opportunity to hate the gays while I'm on the job. Plus the comments got my weiner a little hard so now I'm afraid I may be gay.

    Posted by: Tread | Aug 7, 2007 10:30:12 AM

  15. The Truth is obviously false.

    Posted by: Whatev | Aug 7, 2007 10:31:20 AM

  16. To all those defending these firefighters:

    If the tables were turned, and the fire dept was at another parade, and women were saying "you can put out my fire" to firemen who happened to be gay - do you REALLY think those gay men could or should sue for harassment?

    This was not a boss using power to demean or coerce sex from an underling. These were catcalls from a rowdy crowd. Get over it, Firemen, and try to show some of that bravery that you are lauded for.

    Posted by: Gregg | Aug 7, 2007 10:43:49 AM

  17. When I read comments like "Tread" and "GBM" I am amazed because they have taken upon themselves to infer the meaning of what these men have actually said. When blacks were being called names of all sorts should they have dealt with it? I mean blacks today say the N-word to one another in records, movies, the streets but let a white person say it and all hell will break out across the media airwaves. What if a group of whites were making sexual remarks to an Asian, Black or Hispanic woman at the bus stop is that wrong. Or how about in a parade, what if a white/Asian man yelled out to a black woman marching in a MLK parade, hey baby the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice. If you do not like hate speech then you do not like hate speech; it is not bad for one group and not another.

    Also why do gay men think that they have telepathy to read others mind? Gay men do not have super powers. Why do gay men constantly think that if someone does not accept their advances they are a closet case homosexual? That black woman in the parade I just mentioned maybe she is a closet case Asian lover and does not know it; maybe if I say it to her a few more times she will convert. I am making a point to just how stupid and sick it sounds when gay men make these statements.

    Also if you are going to make a comment here or anywhere else on the internet try to have something of substance to say that is truthful and/or directs the conservation in the direction of the truth. Far too many people use the internet to deflect the truth; make rude and childish comments that deflect the truth or do not have any clear sense of human sentiment.

    Posted by: TheTruth | Aug 7, 2007 10:47:17 AM

  18. i think it has to be taken in context of the whole meaning of the law. now, granted, a bunch of adult men making lewd comments to people who provide a community service is totally lame, but even if you think thats okay, the law on sexual harrassment in the state of california is pretty clear on the issue, and that is that its not okay. i worked for a company that specialized in gay media, and because of that, the guys who worked for me, who were both straight and gay, were often the subject of lewd remarks. anytime any of them told me about it, the policy according to the law was clear. i had to ask, did that make you uncomfortable? do you want me to take steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again. if they said "yes" i had to address the issue with the guilty party, and make it clear that they couldn't speak that way, and if they didn't change their behavior, in the interest of protecting my employees, i had to sever ties with them, even if they were a good customer. its pretty much the same way hear, except that the fire chief doesn't have the option to take the matter up with the idiots who were making the comments. but the san diego fire department is in the position of having ordered their employees to participate in a venue that subjected them to harassment. the grievance is legitimate. you might not like it, but its the other side of the blade that protects you from the same. if gay people don't want to be the targets of comments that make them uncomfortable or that make them feel threatened, however the law defines that, than by the very same token, they must respect others wishes for the same. lewd and objectifying behavior is the same no matter who is the perpetrator and who is the victim. just because this group of gay men feel they have the right to say whatever they want to whoever they want, doesn't change california's sexual harassment laws. that said, the final answer on it will come from the courts, but hopefully the san diego fire department will address it appropriately and make participation in parades a voluntary matter. but calling it homophobia when someone reacts negatively to your comments is immature and limited thinking. do better.

    Posted by: dan | Aug 7, 2007 11:07:20 AM

  19. Having worked with firefighters for about 15 years now (I'm an EMS provider), when I read the article, I have a different thought on what really tweaked the firefighters.

    In other sentence, they mentioned how their coworkers kept calling and taunting them. The firehouse is like a big boys club and their really is the "alpha-male" mentality there. There is always a competitions to who is strongest, bravest, etc. I think the calls from their brother firefighters were what really set them off.

    On a different note, I'm sure some of the comments at the parade were rude but that comes with the territory. I've talked with a lot of the police and EMS at the NYC parades and I've asked them about whether they enjoy working the pride parade. Most of them say its a lot of fun and yes there are some comments that are made to them. Generally, they say the comments are not nearly as bad as some of the names they are called at other parades which are decidely less affectionate.

    Cops, firefighters and EMT are the face of the government and part of their job is representing the government and dealing with people that they don't like. (I don't like all my patients and many of them have said things a lot worse to me than a little flirt.) Many times they don't like what they hear but I don't know that gives them the right to start suing. What if the cops refused to work a parade where they were called pigs and killers by every float down the street. This is just a fact of the job.

    Posted by: Ed | Aug 7, 2007 11:07:57 AM

  20. what Brian and Sam said, and honey those big butch firefighters need to develop a tougher hide, you should hear the insults and obscenities hurled at me as I sashay down the street, San Diego is a mean town.

    Posted by: the queen | Aug 7, 2007 11:08:45 AM

  21. Hate speech? I think not. Uncomfortable and awkward perphaps for the timid but if this is the 15th year of marching you'd think they would be used to being oggled along with a few dozen wolf whistles. My guess is they did not want to march in the parade at all and this is their way of making sure they will never do it again. Next year marching in the parade should be strictly voluntary.

    Posted by: Giovanni | Aug 7, 2007 11:13:52 AM

  22. Straight firefighters being forced to participate in the firefighters gay pride parade: Wrong.

    These same straight firefighters being taunted, insulted, name-called, etc.: Wrong.

    Two wrongs don't make a right.
    In other words, this potential lawsuit NO merit.
    These type of things fry my ass.

    Posted by: Stephen | Aug 7, 2007 11:31:36 AM

  23. Hope every thing settles as a big mistake.
    next time ask for volunteers and that way it would be less problematic.
    Im shure firefighters have an opend mind hello its 2007.

    Posted by: Nachito | Aug 7, 2007 11:35:54 AM

  24. If not homophobic, then what? Happy-go-lucky? The Thomas More Law Center representing the firefighters is a conservative Christian non-profit whose 'non-homophobic' objectives include:
    Defending the Traditional Family
    Challenging Special Rights for Homosexuals
    Block Efforts to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage
    (from their own website)

    Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center:

    "These men should not have to explain to their families, friends and church congregations that their presence at a celebration of lewdness and obscenity in support of the homosexual agenda was because they were forced there by way of a direct order" ...“This is another example of how radical homosexual activists in positions of authority force their agenda on unwilling citizens."

    The charges of harassment seem tangential to the simple fact that it is a gay parade at all. Volunteer service would be best if these men were simply part of a city float, but if it was their job to be there for safety, then I agree with Ed above.

    Posted by: GBM | Aug 7, 2007 12:11:12 PM

  25. Andy,

    Have to disagree with you on this one. This activity was outside of their work responsibilities and they shouldn't have been forced into attending if they didn't want to do so. Firefighters are hired to fight fires. This should have been a volunteer assignment.

    Gay pride parades are very sexual. Forcing a guy to attend an event where he will receive unwanted sexual attention is no different from forcing a woman employee to visit a strip club, where women are stripping for men, to have a business meeting where she didn't want to go.

    Many women feel threatend and intimidated when the receive unwanted cat calls or sexual advances. Are you saying that they should just keep their mouths closed and suffer in silence?

    Sexual harrassment is about the perception of the victim.

    Posted by: noah | Aug 7, 2007 12:13:13 PM

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