General Debate 01/02/11

SAN DIEGO, California, January 28, 2011 ( – Four California firefighters forced to participate in a gay pride parade in July 2007 are victorious after the California Supreme Court this week refused to hear the city’s petition to review an appellate court decision last year. The four men, led by Fire Capt. John Ghiotto of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, filed the suit against the city of San Diego for sexual harassment a month after a battalion chief directly ordered them to ride a fire engine in a lewd parade through the city streets. The men endured verbal abuse and come-ons, as well as overtly sexual gestures from the crowd.

“You could not even look at the crowd without getting some type of sexual gesture,” stated the original complaint, which noted that Christian protesters reviled them for joining the parade. Had the men refused, Ghiotto noted, the men risked being immediately suspended and stripped of any chance of promotion. “As a supervisor I felt disgusted and embarrassed, that I had to subject my crew to this type of behavior.”

An initial trial ended in a hung jury in September 2008, before a jury sided with the firefighters the following February. After the San Diego attorney’s office appealed, the firefighters won again in October of last year, when the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District issued a ruling strongly in their favor. Charles LiMandri, the general counsel for the California branch of the National Organization for Marriage who represented the firefighters, told that his clients were “delighted” with the outcome.

“It’s an important case because it shows that if Christian or people of faith generally are willing to stand up for their religious beliefs, and refuse to be bullied by secular agendas, that they do have rights that can and should be enforced in court,” said LiMandri. “In this case those rights were upheld.” LiMandri said that it also “sends a strong message to people about what these gay pride parades are really like.”