A California jury found on Tuesday that four firefighters, who were ordered by their superiors to participate in the city’s “gay pride” parade were sexually harassed, and awarded them monetary damages from the city.
The case dates back to July 2007 when four San Diego firefighters were informed by their superiors that they would be participating in San Diego’s annual “Gay Pride” parade. Though the four men protested, they were ordered to dress up in full uniform and ride on the fire engine along the parade route.
During the event, explains a statement from the Thomas More Law Center, the firefighters were subjected to “vile sexual taunts and gestures.”
Some of the comments hurled at the firefighters along the parade route included: “you can put out my fire; you’re making me hot; give me mouth-to-mouth.” When the firefighters did not respond, some people in the crowd turned hostile and started yelling obscenities at them.
Other bystanders directed lewd acts at the firefighters, such as exposing their genitals, grabbing their crotch, and blowing kisses.
Shortly after the parade, the four firefighters filed a lawsuit against the City of San Diego. The first trial ended in a hung jury. However, the jurors of the retrial, which ended yesterday, found in favor of the four firefighters “on all nine questions in the verdict form,” reports the Thomas More Law Center.
The four men were awarded a combined total of $34,300 for emotional distress. In addition, Fire Chief Tracy Jarman has stated that participation in future parades will be voluntary.
Charles S. LiMandri, West Coast Director of the Thomas More Law Center, reacted to the ruling, saying, “This is a victory for all people who are willing to stand up for what is right when it comes to defending our basic freedoms of speech and religion. No one should be forced to be subjected to sexual harassment on the job – not even male heterosexual firefighters who are being harassed by homosexual men at a Gay Pride Parade. All city officials should now think twice before ever making such a wrongheaded decision to violate their employees’ rights in such an improper manner again.”
Co-counsel in the case, Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Joe Infranco added in a statement, “Many people may mistakenly think the ‘gay pride’ parade is merely a ‘fun’ event. They never would have imagined the crude sexual harassment these firefighters were forced to endure.”
Deputy City Attorney Don Shanahan stated that the city will appeal the verdict.