Four San Diego
firefighters have filed a lawsuit against the city
government for damages after alleging they were sexually
harassed while participating involuntarily in the 2007
gay pride parade.
Angeles Times reports the firefighters say
they were ordered to drive their firetruck along the
three-hour parade route even though they say peers had
complained of being harassed during previous pride
parades. The trial was expected to begin today.
The suit alleges
that mandatory participation was part of a policy by
Fire Chief Tracy Jarman, according to the firefighters'
attorney, Charles LiMandri. Jarman, who is a lesbian,
marched in the parade.
One of the
firefighters alleged that after questioning the parade
assignment, the "lesbian battalion chief" gave him an
unsatisfactory job rating.
"This is not an antigay thing," LiMandri said,
according to the Times. "These guys have served
the Hillcrest community for years with dignity and
honor. They just feel firefighters should not be
forced to participate in a parade where firefighters
have been harassed in the past."
City Atty. Michael Aguirre, who is representing
the city and the Fire-Rescue Department, countered,
saying that the firefighters are "required to serve
the community without discrimination as to sexual
orientation." Aguirre continued that riding a firetruck
along the parade route is no different than a host of
other public-relations activities, including school
firefighters -- John Ghiotto, Chad Allison, Jason Hewitt,
and Alexander Kane -- are seeking damages and
reimbursement for therapy sessions and attorneys'
fees. Though court papers don't mention an exact
figure, reports suggest they are seeking in the neighborhood
of $3 million, according to the Times.
Along with sexual harassment claims, the suit
also alleges the gay pride parade should be seen as a
political event, "designed to advocate for the civil
rights of homosexuals, and in recent years to promote the
controversial concept of gay marriage."
In his court brief, Aguirre suggested that much
of the subsequent harassment the firefighters were
feeling stemmed from their very public suit, adding
that the four are viewed by some as "money-grubbers."