By Thaddeus M. Baklinski
SAN DIEGO, February 18, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The four San Diego firefighters who were commanded against their wills to drive a fire truck in the city’s "gay pride" parade, where they were subjected to explicit sexual advances and obscenities, have won their case.
A jury of eight women and four men deliberated for 2½ days and found that the firefighters, who were ordered to ride a fire engine in San Diego’s 2007 homosexual parade, were sexually harassed by homosexual participants and spectators.
Jurors awarded a total of $34,300 to Capt. John Ghiotto and firefighters Jason Hewitt, Alex Kane and Chad Allison.
The original trial, held September 22, 2008, ended in a mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the sexual harassment claim.
Charles LiMandri, attorney and West Coast director of the Thomas More Law Center representing the firefighters, believes the city should have known from past experience, "the kind of offensive activities that go on at this event," which in this case involved obscene catcalls, genital exposure, and simulated sex acts between homosexuals.
"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."
Following the successful outcome of this second trial LiMandri said, "We’re pleased. The amounts were a little low, but quite frankly, in this economy, it’s not surprising and not that disappointing. The jury has forced the city to acknowledge ... that what happened to my clients is a violation of their rights."
"Government employees should never be forced to participate in events or acts that violate their sincerely held beliefs," LiMandri explained. "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."
Capt. Ghiotto told reporters outside the courthouse, "About 98% of people on the job agreed with what we were doing. We felt unless we stood up for ourselves, it was going to happen again."
The LA Times reports that the San Diego attorney’s office, which represented the Fire Department in the lawsuit, plans to appeal the verdict.
Read previous LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Trial Begins for Firefighters Suing City over Forced Participation in Gay Pride Parade
San Diego Firefighters Forced to Participate in "Gay Pride" Parade File Lawsuit Against City