Fire­fight­ers seek to sue over forced role in ‘gay pride’ pa­rade

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Au­drey Hud­son

San Diego fire­fight­ers who say they were forced to par­tic­i­pate in a “gay pride” pa­rade and ver­bally abused dur­ing it are charg­ing their de­part­ment with sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

The four men say they faced dis­ci­plinary ac­tion if they did not fol­low the “di­rect or­der” to drive a fire en­gine while in uni­form as part of the pa­rade last month.

Capt. John Ghiotto, in a writ­ten com­plaint to the city’s De­part­ment of Fair Em­ploy­ment and Hous­ing, said that “you could not even look at the crowd with­out get­ting some type of sex­ual ges­ture.”

A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the fire­fight­ers said they were or­dered against their wishes to par­tic­i­pate in the three-hour pa­rade, and were sub­jected to sex­ual taunts and ob­scene ges­tures from peo­ple lin­ing the pa­rade route. When the fire­men re­fused to re­spond to the re­marks, some in the crowd turned hos­tile and be­gan shout­ing ob­scen­i­ties.

“If any of my crew or I were to hang

up pic­tures at the sta­tion of what we saw, we would be dis­ci­plined,” Capt. Ghiotto said.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence left me feel­ing hu­mil­i­ated, em­bar­rassed and of­fended by this event,” he said. “Th­ese un­so­licited and un­wanted be­hav­iors from a few in­di­vid­u­als of the pub­lic to­wards us re­duced our morale as well as the in­tegrity of the work­place and de­stroyed our pro­fes­sion­al­ism.”

The fire­fight­ers were also protested by con­ser­va­tive Chris­tians when they re­turned to their sta­tion af­ter the pa­rade.

“This re­ally struck deep be­cause I am a Chris­tian,” said fire­fighter Alex Kane. “I felt this was not fair be­cause I do not live in an al­ter­na­tive lifestyle. I was or­dered by my de­part­ment to be in this pa­rade against my own wishes and be­liefs.”

A San Diego Fire De­part­ment spokesman de­clined to com­ment to The Wash­ing­ton Times, say­ing the mat­ter could be lit­i­gated.

But in a state­ment to Fox News, San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jar­man said she apol­o­gized to the men. Chief Jar­man, who is les­bian, said she is “deeply con­cerned and trou­bled by the alle- gations” and said all sex­ual ha­rass­ment is “un­ac­cept­able, and is never tol­er­ated.”

Chief Jar­man said she will have the city’s Equal Em­ploy­ment In­ves­tiga­tive Of­fice re­view the com­plaint, which she called the first filed against the de­part­ment over in­volve­ment in a pa­rade or fes­ti­val.

The fire­fight­ers are be­ing rep­re­sented by Charles LiMan­dri, the West Coast di­rec­tor of the Thomas More Law Cen­ter, a Chris­tian pub­lic-in­ter­est law firm that of­fers free le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

“What hap­pened to th­ese ded­i­cated pub­lic ser­vants was inex­cus­able,” said Mr. LiMan­dri, a San Diego lawyer. “The city should have known from past ex­pe­ri­ence the kind of of­fen­sive ac­tiv­i­ties that go on at this event. This was a clear case of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in vi­o­la­tion of state and fed­eral law as well as the city’s own code of con­duct.”

Brian Rooney, spokesman for the law cen­ter, said the city’s em­ploy­ment de­part­ment must ap­prove the fire­fight­ers’ “right to sue” re­quest be­fore they can be­gin civil lit­i­ga­tion in the courts.

“They are all hus­bands, many of them fa­thers, and they are all Chris­tians who had to an­swer to their wives and their chil­dren and their con­gre­ga­tions,” Mr. Rooney said.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Caught up in the cul­ture wars: A drag queen waves to the crowd as a pro­tester holds a sign dur­ing a Gay Pride pa­rade in Har­ris­burg, Pa. last month. San Diego fire­fight­ers say they were forced to par­tic­i­pate in a sim­i­lar pa­rade.

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