Tuesday, 9 November 2010

San Diego Appeals Court Upholds Ruling in Firefighter Employment Lawsuit

An appeals court has upheld a ruling from last year which awarded damages to four firefighters in San Diego who had been forced to participate in the Gay Pride Parade in 2007 in Hillcrest.

The four firefighters have always maintained that they were forced by their superiors to take part in the parade in Hillcrest, a predominantly gay neighborhood in San Diego. During the trial, the firefighters testified that the entire experience left them completely uncomfortable. They were harassed during the parade, and were the subject of catcalls. They also saw half naked men simulating sex acts along the parade route. The experience left the firefighters with physical stress-related effects, including headaches, irritable bowel disorder and anxiety. The firefighters say they had given the fire department enough notice that they didn't want to participate in the parade. In fact, the department was aware at least four days before the parade that the four men were not interested in participating.

The four fighter fighters sued the city of San Diego, and won a total of $34,300 plus more than $500,000 in legal fees. The city appealed, and now an appeals court has also upheld that ruling. In 2008, the San Diego Fire Department changed its policies to require that only volunteers take part in the parade. The firefighters say that it was never a question of money, but they only wanted to make a point about government employees not being forced to participate in events that go against their beliefs.

In a volatile political atmosphere, the case has also evolved from one involving employees, employers and Los Angeles employment attorneys to those involving faith and the broader issue of homosexuality. The firefighters were represented by lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund, an alliance of Christian attorneys that aims at defending the right of people to live according to their faith.

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