It didn’t matter whether Jay Brome called for backup during high-speed stolen car pursuits, intense vehicle impoundments or hit-and-run investigations. His fellow officers at the California Highway Patrol would not respond even when situations required him to hold his gun out, putting his life at risk.

They made him feel unsafe at work in other ways, too, Brome recalls. Some officers tied hangers in the shape of penises around his locker. They routinely flung homophobic slurs and once carved his name off an award plaque.

Brome says the dangerous workplace environment began years ago, when he was attending highway patrol academy and a fellow cadet held a gun to his head.

“I know you are gay,” the cadet said, according to Brome. “Tell me you are gay and I will pull the trigger.”

Brome filed numerous internal complaints, but nothing happened. Supervisors allowed the hostile treatment to continue, Brome surmised, because he was a gay man. In 2016, Brome sued the California Highway Patrol for 20 years of alleged discrimination and harassment. 

“They refuse to acknowledge there’s a problem and they refuse to do anything about it,” said Brome, of Vallejo, California.

Brome’s story is part of a wave of lawsuits alleging anti-gay workplace discrimination filed by gay officers against law enforcement departments across the U.S. in recent years. The lawsuits describe abusive work environments, where being gay or lesbian often meant cruel taunts, hostile work conditions and limited career opportunities. Some officers said they faced different work standards, while others claimed administrators passed them over for promotion or denied them protection — all because of their sexual orientation.

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