A mistrial was declared Monday after a jury could not decide whether to award damages to four firefighters who claimed they were sexually harassed after being forced to participate in a gay pride parade last year. The jury deliberated nearly four days before announcing a deadlock on the first of several criteria needed to find the city liable.
Charles LiMandri, the firefighters’ attorney, called the mistrial “extremely frustrating” and said he plans to seek a new trial.
The lawsuit sought unspecified compensation from the city, and alleged that the fire department retaliated after they publicly criticized their employer.
City Attorney Michael Aguirre said the lawsuit “was about greed” and declared the jury’s deadlock a total victory.
The firefighters claimed they were humiliated by taunts and sexual gestures from parade watchers. Their complaint said parade participants included “a group of radical homosexual men” dressed in nun habits and others who yelled comments such as, “You’re making me hot!” and, “I can’t breathe, give me mouth to mouth!”
Aguirre told jurors that the men were assigned to the parade after another crew backed out due to a death in one member’s family. He said the parade is a city-sanctioned event, just like celebrations of the Fourth of July and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Aguirre said the firefighters were uncomfortable with a city policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Fire Chief Tracy Jarman, who marched in the parade ahead of the four firefighters, said she didn’t feel sexually harassed but testified at the trial that she could see why some people would find the parade offensive.
The fire department later changed its policy to make participation in any parade voluntary.