San Diego Firefighters Win $34,300 Gay Pride Harassment Judgment

A jury awarded four San Diego firefighters $34,300 in damages (to split between them) for harassment they claimed they suffered after being forced to participate in a Gay Pride parade in 2007:

Ghiotto“Jurors deliberated for about two-and-a-half days before reaching the verdict Tuesday in the case brought by firefighters John Ghiotto, Jason Hewitt, Alex Kane and Chad Allison. The firemen said they were subjected to sexually charged conduct and lewd comments while riding a fire engine in the July 2007 parade. City attorneys said they will appeal the verdict. Jurors were required to determine if the firefighters faced pervasive or severe harassment from spectators and participants. Nancy Chiquete, the jury foreperson, said reaching the decision was ‘not easy,’ particularly because she said she lives in the city and knows its financial situation is not good. But, Chiquete said, ‘I felt truly like these four men were wronged by the situation.’ The case was first heard in September but that jury was unable to reach a verdict on the sexual harassment claim. The jury did not know how much money the firefighters had asked for in the first trial, Chiquete said. She said that throughout the trial, the firefighters said they wanted to make a point and prevent the situation from happening to others and wanted to have the department’s policy changed. ‘So, I think in that sense, hopefully they got what they wanted,’ she said. The firefighters’ attorney, Charles LiMandri, said he and his clients were pleased.”

During the first trail, their attorney had asked for $1 million each for the firefighters.


  1. Mike says

    I can understand harassment in the workplace issues, but come on. These are grown men at a parade. So I guess if there had been women whistling at them, the verdict would have been the same? … NOT! Obviously, they need to grow a pair. They were just pissed off they were assigned to go to a gay event and wanted some cash and publicity for their trouble.

  2. alex in boston says

    So then by this logic, GLBT Americans should be able to sue municipalities every time we are insulted, ridiculed, libeled, defamed, or otherwise disrespected????? What about printed full page denouncements which we saw published in Utah this week by some right wing organization????

  3. David in Houston says

    This is clearly a money grab. Each of them wanted $1,000,000 originally. I’d don’t think “cat-calls and barely clothed men simulating sex acts” constitutes harassment. It’s called boisterous fun. The gay people there were obviously thrilled that the fire department would make an appearance. Instead of going-with-the-flow the firemen ratcheted up their homophobia. Nice. Perhaps they need to take a “tolerance class” instead of being rewarded money for their unacceptable behavior.

  4. ty says

    The precident for harassment has been set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. For 100 years, the equally lewd behavior has never been legally challenged by police or fire department officials. San Diego should definately countersue!

  5. says

    This seems like a decent verdict. San Diego was initially in the wrong in forcing them to do the parade and in not taking their complaints seriously. Eight to nine thousand a piece seems like a fair penalty to pay. And the fact that it is so far off from the original million they requested makes them look like the bigoted idiots they so obviously are.

  6. noah says

    The city’s attorney’s fees spent to date must easily dwarf $34,000. Appealing the case would increase those expenditures. Therefore, the City of San Diego will cut a check most likely to reduce further financial risk.

    The firefighters will most likely pay 33% of the verdict as compensation to their own lawyers. That doesn’t leave much for the individual firefighters.

    From a legal perspective, the case is probably closer to that heterosexual women being forced to conduct business at strip club with naked women performing simulated sex acts. Courts have sided with women that being forced to work in a sexually charged environment is sexual harassment.

    This is probably why the jury found for the plaintiffs.

    The city would have been on better legal footing if they had required the firefighters to attend a professional career fair or other gay event that was not sexually charged.

  7. freddy says

    Wait, seriously, doesn’t this set up precedent for gay people to file harassment suits all over the place? We’re constantly subjected to hetero-normative sex, and, yes, we’re constantly, CONSTANTLY under attack in ads, etc.

  8. Pender says

    Sigh. Yet another way the rampant immaturity of gay pride parades undermine our attempts for equality.

    I’m glad they won. They deserved to. What they experienced in the parade WAS sexual harassment, just like if a woman were forced by her employer to march through crowds of leering men in a hyper-sexualized environment. And with their victory, (1) fewer straight men will be victimized by this sort of thing, and (2) the anti-gay industrial complex will have one less thing to warn about when foretelling the doom of civilization at the hands of gay equality.

  9. Jersey says

    Pender, I don’t know which gay pride parades you’re going to but I want in. The ones I’ve been to typically have a bunch of overweight, middle aged couples possibly holding hands walking down the street together, sometimes with children in tow. Infrequently there may be a guy in semi-decent shape in a pair of colorful shorts. I must be missing out on the naked sexfests.

  10. PM says

    I agree with the verdict and the modest pay-out, but I do wonder if this sets a precedent that might open avenues for other cases.

    E.g. LGBT public servants being required to service events with homophobically-charged atmospheres – there are surely all kinds of emergency personnel stationed where-ever we’re seeing mobs with hate banners etc.

    But… why would anyone really want to pursue such lawsuits, and what would the effects be on careers/working environments?

    Even – like in this case – if the verdict is right and ‘the city’ is wrong, taking the matter to court still makes you look greedy and/or weak.

    The last thing anyone wants to see is wingnut demonstrations only policed by wingnut cops, or massive parades being handled by skeleton crews of LGBT paramedics.

  11. Philip Wester says

    Why wasn’t the defense allowed to stress that the moneygrubbing whiners originally requested 1 mill? If the jurors had heard that, they would’ve realized this was all about money and ruled against them!

  12. DC Guy says

    So, since I work for the US Congress, can I sue the federal government every time some wingnut republican lectures about how gay marriage will be the fall of western civilization?

    Sweet, easy money here I come!

  13. CK says

    forget the fire truck, call for a waaaaaaahmbulance for these guys. Their tragic lil’ fragile egos and psyches were hurt by the parade? Jeez give me a break! Now I KNOW that the harassment and insults we have had to endure for so long have TRULY made us stronger people than these pussies will ever wish to be!

    As it’s been said here, if being ‘subject’ to this kind of situation had HONEST monetary value, gay people would have billions and straights be in the poorhouse for the shit we have had to put up with over the years!

  14. anon says

    It’s not a good precedent to set, since it expands on cases involving women in strip clubs, etc. However, the low settlement fee will probably discourage lawyers from taking more cases.

  15. GayRepublican says

    I think the point about this being similar to a woman being forced to be in front of a crowd of whistling straight men is a good one. I think it’s fair to call it harassment when it’s forced. That having been said, the fact that these guys were seeking one million just goes to show you that they were in it for the money.

  16. TANK says

    How is this like being a straight woman forced to be in front of a crowd of whistling straight men? How exactly? It’s critical thinking time, faggots.

    First, you don’t know what kind of harassment actually occurred other than what they reported occurred, or if any actually did. Given that many think this was motivated by cupidity, it doesn’t seem that far fetched to suggest that events were exaggerrated or completely made up for dramatic effect.

    Secondly, what was described met the standard for harassment to the jury, and perhaps the jury was homophobic and biased against gay people and pride parades from the outset. Meeting the “standadard” varies from jury to jury, apparently.

    Third, the san diego fire department didn’t organize the pride parade. They didn’t have a hand in creating that alleged environment, either–just making the fire fighters do their job by showing up. So by that logic, a vice cop could sue (and should win) the city for sexual harassment she received at the hands of johns who propositioned her while she was posing as a prostitute. Or for that matter, a cop could sue the city for endangering his life during the course of his job when he went to investigate a domestic disturbance that turned ugly.

    A cop could sue the city for a suspect using salty language against him or her during the course of an arrest…and, apparently, they should win.

    So if you could explain to me how specifically the fire department is responsible for creating the “hostile” work environment at the pride parade–other than just requiring city officials to show up which certainly doesn’t equal creating a hostile work environment–you’ve got dick.

  17. GayRepublican says


    First off, don’t ever call me a faggot. I don’t care if you are gay.

    Second, there is a difference between a cop or fireman responding to a call where traditionally anything can happen and thus certain things are expected to happen as part of the job and a fireman being forced to take part in a parade of this nature.

    Let me ask you this: Do you honestly think those firefighters felt free to leave the parade during the harassment?

  18. says

    San Diego is a conservative town. I could be wrong, but if I am not mistaken, these firefighters’ station was either in the gay community (Hillcrest) or was responsible to fight fires in that community.

    Would they have sued if it was a parade for “Sadie Hawkins Day”?

  19. TANK says

    Hey, I’ll call you PATRICK STARFISH if I so desire. I’ll call you muffin man or mr. hoppy if I wish.

    What’s the difference? Traditionally, anything can happen during the course of ANYTHING. That’s no distinction. To rely on the “anything can happen” argument here, well, what happened could easily be reasonably expected to happen, and that they took offense to it is not in keeping what what they could reasonably expect to occur at a gay pride parade that they attended AS A PART OF THEIR JOBS WHICh they were getting paid for. If they didn’t want to do their job, they could quit. No one forced them to do this, as they are adults…and could leave their job or even refuse to go. WOuld they have been fired if they refused? We may never know that, republican.

    I don’t know what you mean by “certain things are expected to happen as part of the job and a fireman being forced to take part in the parade of this nature” differs at all from what they were expected to do by showing up in the first place. IT doesn’t.

    Further, what’s the substantive difference here between a police officer or fireman attending the st. patrick’s day parade and suing because of public displays of IRISH rowdyness that created a hostile work environment? Or a police officer at mardi gras suing because he saw a woman flash her tits for beads? Is the city then responsible for that, too? This default=city’s responsible mentality is WITHOUT defense. Just because the city issues a permit to an event in which, say, a homicidal maniac shoots the joint up doesn’t mean that the city is responsible for those that died.

    Whether or not those firefighters felt free to leave the parade during the harassment IS NOT RELEVANT to the fact that the san diego fire dept. didn’t have a hand in planning the parade, they actually were free to leave, and that this is a part of their job which they freely partook. The next time I see someone spitting on the street, and become ill as a result, I’m suing the city for failing to protect me from such awful experiences.

  20. says

    As a member of LGBT, I always keep my eyes on the matter of gay and lesbian. Reading many news about gay mariage i feel very grateful. “There is no difference between LBGT and straight people when it comes to true love. We know how to love and cherish a person.”It is what we all bisexual get after the discusssin at BiMingle .com . And all these words is what we would like to let others know from the bottom of our heart. We only hope don’t make it special for us LGBT. We do love others as you straight do.

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