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San Diego Firefighter Gay 'Harassment' Trial Begins

Opening statements begin today in a case that I first posted about back in August 2007 when a group of San Diego firefighters inquired about filing suit against the city because they said they were harassed after being forced to ride in a gay pride parade.

GhiottoAt the time, the Union Tribune reported: "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."

According to that paper, "A jury of six men and six women was seated Monday. The trial is expected to last three weeks. The four – fire Capt. John Ghiotto, engineer Jason Hewitt, and firefighters Alex Kane and Chad Allison – are seeking unspecified compensation...City Attorney Mike Aguirre is representing San Diego in court. He said the parade is a sanctioned city event no different than many other parades, including those celebrating Fourth of July and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 'It is the policy of the city to provide fire and police participation' at these events, Aguirre said during pretrial arguments. 'These men were paid to sit in a truck with the windows up and to drive a few blocks.' The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department has since changed its policy to rely on volunteers."

San Diego Firefighters Claim Threats After Gay Pride Complaint [tr]
San Diego Firefighters Sue Dept for Gay Pride Sexual Harassment [tr]

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  1. "You can put out my fire" is a lewd comment?

    I can't believe they're suing the city over something so stupid. What a waste of time and money.

    Posted by: JP | Sep 16, 2008 1:39:33 PM

  2. Erik Estrada's career has taken a downturn.

    Posted by: crispy | Sep 16, 2008 1:56:47 PM

  3. If the guy in the picture isn't gay someone forgot to tell his mustache.

    Posted by: TheSpeck | Sep 16, 2008 1:58:23 PM

  4. Honestly, I think they kind of have a point. This isn't homophobia, it's decency. The kind of things that one witnesses/can be subjected to as a man at a gay pride parade (public nudity, groping, commentary, etc...) are often over the line. If he was forced to attend, then he has every right to sue.

    If a woman were forced to ride in a Mardi Gras parade, where men exposed themselves to her and made lewd comments, she, too, might have a reasonable claim.

    Posted by: Cameron | Sep 16, 2008 2:14:31 PM

  5. so they had to endure "homosexuality is a sin" for an hour or so.

    they should pause for a moment to think about those of us who've had to endure that sort of shit for decades.

    Posted by: alguien | Sep 16, 2008 2:17:37 PM

  6. I don't think it's right to require someone to be in a pride parade. Expecting someone to be tolerant a give fair treatment to gays and asking that they march in a parade are 2 completly different things. Still, I would have just said no, rather than done it and then sued.

    For that matter, if I was a fire fighter, I wouldn't want to be required to be in any parade. With a mustache like that I'm sure his chief assumed he was gay anyway.

    Posted by: DJSauvage | Sep 16, 2008 2:23:04 PM


    I was thinking exactly the same thing.

    I was also thinking that most normal people wouldn't go to these lengths unless they have something to hide or to prove.

    I wonder if these guys can provide witnesses (other than each other) of the heinous comments they received that were so absolutely horrible that the "men" were forced to go to therapy to recover?

    EVERY working American in ANY position has to occasionally do something they don't necessarily want or like to do. That's what you get paid for. If you don't like the job, find another line of work. Like it or not, community PR is part of being a city employee in a high profile position.

    Posted by: MikeinSanJose | Sep 16, 2008 2:25:03 PM

  8. They're suing the city for people flirting with them? People shouting anti-gay slurs at them (if it happened) I can understand, but people flirting with them?

    I mean, would they even have cared (and quite possibly even like it) if the people saying "You can put out my fire" were attractive females?

    Was it so traumatizing for them have men flirting with them?

    Posted by: Philip Wester | Sep 16, 2008 2:32:59 PM

  9. this sounds like a bad 'sex and the city' episode...
    someone get samantha to the firehouse a.s.a.p.

    Posted by: my2cents | Sep 16, 2008 2:50:05 PM

  10. While I don't know why they were forced to attend the parade, they are definitely not acting like LA's bravest are they.

    Posted by: anon | Sep 16, 2008 4:08:17 PM

  11. I don't think "sexual harassment" was the road to take -- and on those terms their suit should probably fail. But I wouldn't want my city job to compel participation in an ideologically-charged private event either.

    Imagine a small town where it was assumed that city employees would participate in the local "Baptists for Bombings" parade.

    Posted by: Distingué Traces | Sep 16, 2008 4:40:45 PM

  12. Every firefighter should be forced to ride in the parade. They should familiarize themselves with a part of the community that has been discriminated against for walking down the street.
    They need to know how we live and what it's like, unspecified damages means get on that parade route and shut up !

    Posted by: Ty | Sep 16, 2008 5:18:01 PM

  13. Distingue traces - you already participate in the "Baptists for Bombing" parade, it's called the Forth of July !

    Posted by: Ty | Sep 16, 2008 5:21:46 PM

  14. Firefighters driving through a parade does not imply them sanctioning the content of the parade.

    Anyone know if they are volunteer or paid? If they are paid, then regardless of their personal beliefs, it is their job to "work" the parade (whatever they had to actually do and no pun intended).

    Distingue Traces - "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"? - Voltaire

    I wouldn't be happy at all to have to work at "Baptists for Bombings" parade but if it was part of my job description I would do it. And I certainly wouldn't waste taxpayer money suing Baptists over it. I would politely keep my mouth shut and donate my day's pay to the HRC.

    I'd also like to ask these firefighters if they have ever even once in their life made an unprovoked sexual comment to a woman. If so, their suit is bollocks.

    And, to quote another literary giant: "The lady doth protest too much." Be men, you silly hose-wavers!

    Posted by: Aron | Sep 16, 2008 5:26:54 PM

  15. I don't think they should've been forced to ride in the parade and TY, no offense but I wouldn't really consider a gay pride parade a prime example of how us gays live, and you have to admit, some pretty shady things go on at pride festivals. A person can't help if they're not comfortable with a situation and forcing someone to endure the situation isn't the best way to resolve it.

    Posted by: Pekemo | Sep 16, 2008 7:56:57 PM

  16. Why are people so stupid?

    Posted by: Dawnell_do | Sep 16, 2008 11:18:23 PM

  17. Everyone should have to face discrimination at least once in their life.

    Posted by: Art | Sep 17, 2008 9:55:00 AM

  18. At least they didn't shoot any go-go boys.

    Posted by: Mark in NYC | Sep 17, 2008 11:38:03 AM

  19. Mark In NYC, OUCH! You're right, though. Big straight tough guys can be such pussies. And lots of times that makes them dangerous.

    Posted by: TroyTooner | Sep 17, 2008 12:40:20 PM

  20. So these guys were the target of flirting and homophobic comments?

    What traumatised them more - the various comments or the supposition by some of their community that they are gay??

    I suspect the latter.

    Posted by: Rassy | Sep 17, 2008 4:16:07 PM

  21. Ok, so where is all the groping at the pride events?? I keep missing them! I've never seen groping or lewd behavior during Philly pride or the Equality worst was the PDK booth from Interactive Male. Maybe I'm just not looking for it, so I don't notice it. Hmmm...maybe if they stop concerning themselves with what they might see, they won't care what they do see.

    And hellooooo...Mardi Gras? Straight and gay people grope the ever living hell out of each other there and nobody complains or sues.

    Posted by: Brian | Sep 18, 2008 6:33:03 PM

  22. If this were the UK, the fire fighters would be sent on a training course to re-train them on what it means to hold a public position; a course on prejudice (illegal here) and retraining on the policies of the department which pays their salary.

    The fire departments here are among the most equal of equal employers in he country and their employees are more than happy to support the WHOLE community which they risk their lives for.


    Posted by: Paul Thompson | Oct 5, 2008 12:43:34 PM

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