"Show me your hose"

Four San Diego firefighters sue for being forced to participate in the city's gay pride parade.

Published August 7, 2007 4:10PM (EDT)

If four firemen are forced to participate in a gay pride parade -- resulting in the firefighters getting verbally harassed by parade supporters and religious protesters -- who has the moral upper ground? Is it the fire chief, who demanded that they support the community by participating? Is it the firefighters, for standing up for their right not to march in something against their will? It looks as if it'll be up to the courts to decide.

According to CNSNews.com, four San Diego firefighters were ordered to participate in a local gay pride parade. Along the parade route, parade viewers identified by the article as "homosexual" harassed the firefighters, yelling things like "Show me your hose!" "You can put out my fire!" and "Why don't you give me mouth to mouth!" as they passed by -- adding in little extra touches like rubbing their nipples at the firemen, gesturing toward their crotches and occasionally shouting "Fuck you, firemen!" The firefighters were also harassed by religious protesters, who announced that homosexuality is a sin and that they would go to hell for marching in the parade. It doesn't sound like a particularly pleasant experience.

If you support gay rights, it's easy to see a certain irony in some of the firemen's complaints -- one of them described the experience of marching in a parade as leaving him feeling "humiliated, embarrassed and offended," and said in a statement that "these unsolicited and unwanted behaviors from a few individuals of the public toward us reduced our morale as well as the integrity of the workplace, and destroyed our professionalism."

But then again, you could say that firefighters -- whose job priority is to save lives, not march in parades -- shouldn't be forced into a situation where they're the target of frustration and anger from both sides of a fight that has nothing to do with their job descriptions. (And they're not all personally opposed to the parade on principle -- while three of the four say in their statements that marching in a parade that supports homosexuality goes against their personal beliefs, the fourth has a gay uncle whom he got out of the fire truck to hug.) If the situation were reversed and the gay parade participants were forced into a situation where they were taunted by a crowd of homophobic onlookers, it seems likely that they'd have a legitimate case of sexual harassment.

So what do you think, Broadsheeters? Should the firefighters win the case? Or should they toughen up? I'm not sure exactly where I stand on this -- all I have to say is that if a few shouts of "Show me your hose!" lead them to litigate, they should never visit the Broadsheet comments section.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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