The San Diego Fire Department has dropped its requirement for on-duty firefighters to drive the gay parade routes after firemen complained of sexual harassment this summer. Now only volunteers will drive the route, the San Diego Tribune reports.
Early this August four firefighters were forced by their superior to drive in the parade in the Hillcrest neighborhood of the city on July 21. On August 1 they filed complaints of sexual harassment with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing after receiving sexually explicit taunts and gestures as they drove in the parade. They complained against the fire department that had forced them to be exposed to the harassment by requiring them to participate in the parade.
As a result, the Fire Chief Tracy Jarman and San Diego Firefighters Local 145 revised their policy to ensure that only volunteers will drive in the parade. Going into effect immediately, the Fire Department will offer four hours of overtime pay to anyone who volunteers to drive in the parade. In this way, officials hope that enough firefighters will step forward, ensuring that unwilling drivers will not have to participate.
Fire department spokesperson Maurice Luque was confident that the department will find enough volunteers, saying, "Someone is going to step up and want four hours of overtime."
The four firefighter's lawyer, Charles LiMandri of Michigan's Thomas More Law Center, however, still has reservations about the new policy, questioning whether it actually provides sufficient protection for firefighters' right to freedom of conscience as well as their own personal safety in the parade.
Pointing out the weakness in the new policy, LiMandri stated, "It doesn't say clearly that no one will be ordered to participate." Nevertheless, the San Diego Fire Department has claimed that they are not going to force anyone to participate.
This new policy is a victory for those who fight to defend heterosexual marriage within the city. Especially in recent years, San Diego has relentlessly worked to bring itself up to step with other liberal Californian cities. On July 17, for example, despite the protests of numerous city residents, the city council voted unanimously in favor of proclaiming July official "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month in the City of San Diego."
The firefighters' victory is not the first time that homosexual supporters and activists have been required to step back. Two years ago it was discovered that a number of sex offenders were volunteering in the Gay Pride Week festivities. San Diego residents were outraged by this discovery, particularly when it was found that a molester, "Marty the Clown," was set to entertain in the San Diego Gay Pride Children's Garden as he had done in past years. Pride organizers were hit with a wave of criticism and complaints until the offenders were taken off the list of volunteer staff.