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. What a joke! I agree that it's not right to be forced to go to the parade, but did they seriously have to escalate it to this embarrassing and ridiculous level? I mean, come-on! It's sad to see how insecure these guys are in their masculinity. If you read the formal complaint (, they paint the whole crowd as being a bunch of sexually abusive perverts. This is clearly a case of a bunch of insecure homophobes that have a vendetta against their lesbian chief who want to milk this in order to smear her. Judging from their attitudes, I'm sure they've had it in for her for a long time and they're secretly thrilled to have a weapon to get her with. I would expect more maturity, security, and sense of humor from firemen. I mean look at that NYFD hottie Michael Biserta who showed off every delicious ample inch of himself in Guys Gone Wild! Now THAT'S a cool fireman!

    Posted by: Edina Monsoon | Aug 8, 2007 12:24:55 AM

  2. Omg, they were in a Gay Pride Parade, not going to a fundraiser for disabled children. Of course there's going to be cat-calling...

    Posted by: Wet painT | Aug 8, 2007 12:30:51 AM

  3. It's sad to see how insecure these guys are in their masculinity.

    Thank you for making it clear that you see nothing wrong with insulting and sexually harassing them for exercising their legal rights.

    Posted by: North Dallas Thirty | Aug 8, 2007 12:47:36 AM

  4. These firefighters need to grow a collective pair. Have they never leered at or catcalled a woman? I doubt it. When I was a teenager I had long hair and, well, looked kinda like a girl especially from a distance, truth be told. Before I cut my hair off, I experienced the stuff women go through all the time, and I lost count of the times I had lewd remarks shouted at me by straight guys on construction sites, driving trucks and yes, hanging out the windows of fire stations even. But did I run screaming to a lawyer like a little girl? No, I shrugged it off, like these wimps should. It sounds like a case of the shoe being on the other foot and them not liking it.

    Posted by: Neio | Aug 8, 2007 9:07:56 AM

  5. Well truthteller, as far as I’ve seen this story is based on unproven allegations. The firemen have to have evidence that they were forced to participate. That’s evidence that needs to be acceptable in a court of law. But obviously there is no need for a court of law by you or the other posters like J. According to you people the lesbian fire chief is already guilty because the straight men said so.
    You do know that San Diego is home to James Hartline and his group of gay hating right wing Christians that will do and say anything to stop the Pride Parade from ever happening again. And that’s not the only thing they want to stop concerning the Gays.
    Obviously you don’t believe that people are innocent until proven guilt just as you believe all us Gay’s are just so awful. You know it could be that the Gay’s don’t like you because of YOUR personality and NOT the other way around as you claim.

    Posted by: U don't know the truth | Aug 8, 2007 12:23:34 PM

  6. To all those people that posted about the Chiefs subjecting them to harrassment clearly have never worked on a public service in urban setting. If you were worried about being harassed, you'd never leave the building on a job.

    I've had the ambulance I've been riding in hit with bottles and rocks as we drive through a neighborhood. Medics and ambulance crews in certain districts in my area wear bullet proof vests on street. One of my people had to pull two shot cops into his truck while under gunfire in his previous job.

    Public service (Police, Fire EMS) is not like you see on TV, even when on reality shows like COPS. I COPS stopped filming episodes in the city outside of where I live when their camera guy was caught in an actual gunfight where the bad guys just didn't surrender but shot back at the cops.

    I work in a comparably quiet community and I've been spit at, swung at, cursed at, called a faggot, had my crew called a bunch of faggots and any number of indignities. That's the job. It is a public job for a reason. A private company cause choose its patrons within reason. Every person /citizen / taxpayer you see on the street is your boss in public service and you got to deal with them like or not.

    My point is that regardless of the law on harrassment and how far you can stretch it, these guys are full of BS. Harrassment in public service is being harrassed by the members of your own team. Harrassment by the public just happens.

    I watched a transit cop in my area make a good bust of a black guy on the subway. The crowd on the platform started shouting that the cop was a n&**^r hater. Should he sue his chief for putting him in a situation where he was harrassed?

    Are these guys to cry and complain next time a citizen gets in their face because they broke a window in their house to put a fire?

    BS. Pure BS.

    Posted by: Ed | Aug 8, 2007 2:42:30 PM

  7. I attended the gay pride parade and where I sat, it appeared all fire and police personnel were enjoying every bit of admiration shown by the crowd. Anyone can and some probably will misbehave even at the M.L. King and Christmas parades. Instead of suing a bankrupt city, wouldnt it be better to report misbehaviour to police or parade supervisors? Thank God that is not the community spirit I experienced when fire and EMT personnel responded to my needs on 3 occasions. I was shown all the professional courtesy, humanitarianism and serious concern I could have expected and undoubtedl they contributed to saving my life in all three instances. It doesnt seem to make a lot of sense to call in volunteers for a parade and the obvious prople driving the rigs are the ones who would be expected to respond to any emergency in their control. If these four firefighters were called upon to rescue these folks they claim were misbehaving or offending them and their religious values, would they first question whether they were in a burning gay bar or would that make a difference?

    Posted by: Richard Regnier | Aug 8, 2007 3:59:16 PM

  8. One other thing. The harrassment thing goes both ways. As a gay man, I've had to go on many assignments that offensive to me. Standby assignments at right wing religious church events, at the RNC, at fairs, carnivals, boy scout events.

    I wonder where all the firefighter civil rights defenders would be standing if the crew refused to go to Scouting event as a standby crew because they feel that the Boy Scouts discriminates and the atheist feels that they are trying to convert him/her.

    Last night, I was at a community event for National Night Out (as a civilian) and kept getting nasty looks from some of the church organization tables because they saw my rainbow wristband.

    So if I was on the firetruck for this event, am I allowed to refuse to attend because the church people were making me feel uncomfortable?

    Posted by: Ed | Aug 8, 2007 6:35:22 PM

  9. they went to a parade event. the idea that everyone at pride is out there acting in a sexual way is on its face false. that someone here would claim that at a prde event everyone is sexual is the part thats bullshit. some parts of the crowd- possibly. not all, and thats the point. going to pride isn't like taking someone to a strip club which is a sexual in which you would expect everyone there to be acting in a sexual way. i am sure that was the purpose of that provision rather than a pride event or any event that happens to also have some sexual element.

    Posted by: akaison | Aug 8, 2007 11:42:49 PM

  10. Pride Parade Sets Back Gay Rights

    When will gays learn that they are only hurting their cause for mainstream acceptance by participating in lewd Gay Pride parades, in which they themselves conform to all of the most negative stereotypes about them?

    What's worse, when you force other people to attend, like four San Diego firefighters who are now suing the San Diego Fire Department for sexual harassment.

    I think the fire fighters are being a little mellow dramatic (maybe something they picked up from the drag queens) when they say, "I've dealt with finding bodies in burning buildings, traffic accidents with kids, but I've never been so stressed out before until this incident," nonetheless no one should be forced to attend any function against their will.

    In forcing these men to attend the Pride Parade, the San Diego Fire Department has only surrendered another PR coup to the Christian Right who are now running pieces like this.

    Posted by: Elizabeth Schmitz | Aug 9, 2007 2:06:06 PM

  11. from Schmitz Blitz:

    Dialogue on the 'Mos

    I've written a response to someone who had responded to my earlier post on gays and firefighters.

    He writes:

    Thank you for your comments.

    have a few questions for you based on your comments.

    You said that “When will gays learn that they are only hurting their cause for mainstream acceptance by participating in lewd Gay Pride parades, in which they themselves conform to all of the most negative stereotypes about them?

    How are these gays in/at the parade “playing into stereotypes” as opposed to showing the public how they really truly are? Were these gays “acting” or is this who they truly are?

    You said that “In forcing these men to attend the Pride Parade, the San Diego Fire Department has only surrendered another PR coup to the Christian Right who are now running pieces like this.”

    How is the “Christian Right” as you called them using this as a “PR coup”? Isn’t the objective factual truth of how homosexuals acted at this event being reported?

    What do you have against people reporting the objective factual truth?


    My response:


    Where to begin.

    I agree with you that stereotype usually has some accuracy to it when applied to any given minority. However, one must recognize that stereotype tends to exaggerate and distort the most superficial differences (and then turns these differences into moral flaws).

    I would start by asking you if you actually know any gay people closely. Friends? Family? Anyone that you are close to? I would be willing to bet that you would have an entirely different perspective on ‘those people’ if you did.

    I am being presumptuous, but I am willing to bet that you do not actually know anyone closely who happens to be gay. I do know a lot of gay people. I love some of them, I can’t stand others—pretty much the way I feel about any given sample of the population.

    That being said, I think that a lot of gays are putting up an act at events like gay pride. For every naked dancing boy I see for a few seconds walking by at a Pride event, I personally know five more gays who shun such displays.

    With regard to your remarks on reporting “objective factual truth,” I would say that the facts of this incident are not disputed, and I have no problem with them being reported as such. As you see from my original post, I actually agree with you in thinking that forcing these men (however exaggerated their claims of psychological damage may be) to march in the parade was wrong.

    However, I do dispute the way that people from generally conservative religious backgrounds paint an entire swath of human beings (who happen to be in the minority ) as depraved and evil. From a minority perspective, it’s kind of scary.

    Thanks for the dialogue,


    Posted by: Elizabeth Schmitz | Aug 10, 2007 12:20:45 AM

  12. I don't think it was right for the firefighters to be ordered to march in ANY parade, it should be voluntary. However, I am having a hard time feeling sorry for men who had to put up with the comments and cat-calls that women have endured in public for centuries. Can I sue the men on the sidewalk for sexual harrassment for whistling or making rude comments? Puh-lease. I'm lucky I could sue if a co-worker or supervisor did it. So it's no big deal if a man does it to a woman but it's a horrible travesty if a man says it to another man. Maybe that will increase male sensitivity to our experiences with men.

    Posted by: Kathryn | Aug 10, 2007 4:25:40 PM

  13. To the guy who was at the parade: Were they cute? I ask because, in my experience, the average straight guy who worries about homosexual propositions is unlikely to ever get one.

    Posted by: CW | Aug 16, 2007 9:50:21 PM

  14. Why should anyone have to be harassed? I don't understand why any of you think one wrong (us being treated second class) makes it okay to treat these men poorly. If you want to be treated well, you have to treat others in the same fashion.

    Posted by: Farrish Carter | Aug 23, 2007 4:44:07 PM

  15. Every comment posted here has some degree of legitimacy. It's a clear example of how everyone has different and very specific points of view depending on their upbringing. The Civil Rights Union exists for this reason: to protect each individual's rights and beliefs.
    As a gay man I have been the subject of gay related comments from men and women of all ages, including young children. Some comments are offensive and embarrasing and others are simply funny or ridiculous. In every occasion however I hold each person responsible for the comment they make, as opposed to generalizing and assuming that all similar people have the same beliefs.
    I can see how these firefighters would be embarrased and offended by the comments directed at them and I apologize to them on behalf of the those gays that feel the same way I do. I ask that they not allow the ignorant and disrespectful behaviour of a few roudy gay men influence their perception of the majority of the gay male population that would absolutely not even consider acting in this manner. I was raised to respect my neighbor and to treat others the way I want to be treated myself, and this is how I conduct myself in public.
    I've attended several gay pride parades in NYC and I've witnessed myself the often overwhelming cheering for police officers and firefighters as they march by. It's a trully touching display of profound respect for these men and women who care for the safety and wellbeing of everyone.
    For many, a gay pride parade is a joyous moment for gay men and women to let go of all preoccupations and feel completely freed of stigma and prejudice. Sometimes in the frenzie an overjoyous spectator might forget social etiquette and blurt out inappropriate remarks that are simply meant as harmless flirting. A man or woman in uniform represents power and discipline and is revered in different ways (including sexual) by many. Unfortunately some people just don't know when to keep a lid on it.
    If there is a wrong here that should be corrected is that parade participants should commit based on will and not force. Maybe next year only those that trully wish to march will do so. It would also be a great endeavour if those spectators who remember catcalling at officers and firefighters would write letters of apology to those particular officers that felt offended. This would show good will and respect towards our police and firefighters on behalf of the gay community (if there must be such a separation of commiunity).
    Regards and peace to all (straight/gay/bi)

    Posted by: Dan Moser | Jul 10, 2009 5:26:21 PM

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