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Firefighters in court over parade

September 17, 2008|From the Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Four firefighters who are suing the city were humiliated by taunts and sexual gestures from parade watchers after being forced to participate in last year's gay pride parade, their attorney told jurors Tuesday.

"For three hours, it was a very unpleasant experience," Charles LiMandri said during his opening statement as the firefighters, in uniform, watched from front-row seats.

The firefighters are seeking unspecified compensation from the city and the Fire Department, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation for publicly objecting to how their employer treated them.

City Atty. Michael Aguirre told jurors that the men were assigned to the parade after another crew backed out with less than two days' notice because of a death in one member's family. He said the parade is a city sanctioned event, like those celebrating the Fourth of July and Martin Luther King Day.

Aguirre said the firefighters were uncomfortable with a city policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"What we are going to show is that they are not enthusiastic about that policy," he said.

The firefighters filed their complaint in state court after participating in the gay pride festival July 21, 2007, in the largely gay Hillcrest neighborhood.

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