Jury finds San Diego subjected 4 to 'simulated sex acts' in 2007 event
Four San Diego firefighters who were ordered by their department to appear in the city's 2007 homosexual "Pride Parade" have been awarded $5,000 each for emotional damages from the event, where they were forced to witness "simulated sex acts."
"Government employees should never be forced to participate in events or acts that violate their sincerely held beliefs," said Charles LiMandri, the West Coast regional director for the Thomas More Law Center. He's also affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund.
"We are pleased with the jury's verdict recognizing the firefighters' right to abstain from activities that they consider morally offensive and that subject them to harassment," LiMandri said.
The jury verdict yesterday came in the case brought by Capt. John Ghiotto and firefighters Jason Hewitt, Alex Kane and Chad Allison.
Ghiotto was awarded $14,200, with $5,000 for emotional distress, while others were awarded $5,000 apiece, according to KGTV-TV in San Diego.
LiMandri said the main goal was that firefighters, all Christians, no longer will be subjected to such treatment.
The firefighters had been ordered to participate in the July 21, 2007, promotion of homosexuality and explicit sex.
WND reported earlier when attorney LiMandri made clear the liability held by the city of San Diego.
"These men were sexually harassed in clear violation of San Diego's sexual harassment code," LiMandri said. "Further, the California Constitution's freedom of speech provision prohibits compelled speech. What the firefighters were ordered to do was endorse what goes on at this parade through their participation in it."
The case detailed how the firefighters were sexually harassed through lewd cat calls and obscene gestures at the event, which was replete with sexual displays and graphic images.
The men then suffered harassment and retaliation after complaining to superiors, the complaint said.
"Many people may mistakenly think the 'gay pride' parade is merely a 'fun' event," said ADF Senior Counsel Joe Infranco, who is co-counsel in the case. "They never would have imagined the crude sexual harassment these firefighters were forced to endure. But in truth, the goal of homosexual behavior advocates is to undermine society's long-held values. They continue to seek this, whether by demanding participation in 'gay pride' parades or by trampling the democratic process to redefine marriage."
Following the launch of the lawsuit, the city changed its fire department policy so firefighters no longer will be forced to participate in the promotion.
LiMandri said the firefighters had expressed concerns before the parade about the sexual harassment prevalent there and said they did not want to appear to be endorsing homosexuality, which violated their own religious beliefs.
Instead of recognizing the concerns, the city "informed my clients that if they did not march, they could face disciplinary action."
It was the second trial. The first, in October, ended when only eight jurors agreed the firefighters had been mistreated. Nine are needed for an affirmative decision. LiMandri said the October trial left disturbing results, including a judge's ruling that the firefighters' freedom of speech was not violated.
"This was the case even though the courts have consistently held that participation in a gay pride parade is a form of constitutionally protected expressive conduct, and the right to speak on a controversial public issue includes the right not to be compelled to speak," he said.
Ghiotto reported in a statement, "While moving down the parade route we were subjected to verbal abuse, (show me your hose, you can put out my fire, give me mouth to mouth, flick you fireman) sexual gestures, (showing their penis, blowing kisses, grabbing their crotch, rubbing their nipples, tongue gestures, flipping us off)."
San Diego's fire chief, Tracy Jarman, is an open lesbian who called the parade a "fun event" in which "all employees are encouraged to participate."
Ghiotto had reported, "We were subject to this type of abuse and more throughout the parade route. You could not even look at the crowd without getting some type of sexual gesture. Even the Christian protesters were giving us grief for being a part of this. The experience left me feeling humiliated, embarrassed and offended.
"If any of my crew or I were to hang up pictures at the station of what we saw, we would be disciplined!" the firefighter said.