Lesbians on Fire!


Okay, that was probably a bit sensationalistic, but this story already reads like a pulp fiction novel.

While listening to MPR this morning, I heard about how Minneapolis Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek is being sued by three female firefighters for harassment and sexual discrimination.

The story at first glance seems to be pretty straightforward: “The three women all allege that Bleskachek unfairly denied them opportunities to advance within the department. And they claim the chief based her decisions on her personal feelings toward the women, not on their job performance. Bleskachek’s lawyer says those claims are false.”

Okay, but then it gets complicated when we start to hear the details of the web of relationships which were involved. It reads like a soap opera. You have to respect the reporter for trying to keep it all sorted out for their readers.

Here’s what the author says to try to distill the situation down to its essentials:

The complaints filed by Jennifer Cornell and Kathleen Mullen present a web of interpersonal relationships. Cornell is Bonnie Bleskachek’s former partner, and co-parent of the chief’s two children. The two underwent a volatile breakup and a child custody skirmish.

Kathleen Mullen says she’s a former longtime friend of Bleskachek, who once dated the chief’s current girlfriend, Mary Maresca — who is also a firefighter. Mullen claims she ended her friendship with Bleskachek after she told the chief she couldn’t support her relationship with Maresca.

The third plaintiff, Kristina Lemon, didn’t have a relationship with Bleskachek. However, she claims that she was the target of Bleskachek’s romantic advances. Lemon says she resisted, and later became the target of retaliation by Bleskachek.

Right now, I’m only seeing this covered on MPR. The Strib and PiPress don’t have anything on it. I wonder if Blimp 9 News will pick it up for it’s “OMG LESBIANS!” angle?

I also wonder if all of this could have been avoided if those involved had avoided dating coworkers. I myself have been tempted to fish off the company pier, but I didn’t want to deal with the ensuing complications.

5 Comments so far

  1. Erica (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 9:01 am

    It was the City Pages cover story last week. But no surprise it’s not on tv at all. If the chief were a guy, this would be all over the place.

    I also wonder if all of this could have been avoided if those involved had avoided dating coworkers. — For real, yo. Especially if the company’s not very big.

    What I hate the most about it is that gay folk have a hard enough time getting along in society. This is the sort of thing that right-wing nutjobs like to hold up as examples of how depraved and unworthy we are. I mean, yeah, we have the same problems (mostly) as everyone else and shouldn’t have to be model citizens to earn respect, but this isn’t helping, you know?


  2. Tipper (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 10:49 am

    I think it’s easier to address the issue of guys doing this, maybe because it’s expected, and maybe because no on wants to deal with a backlash along the lines of “I can’t believe you’re painting lesbians in a bad light!”


  3. Urgewyrm (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 8:05 pm

    This is why my personal motto of ‘Don’t screw the crew’ are words to live by. Talk about a tangled web.


  4. Erica (unregistered) on June 16th, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

    What also sucks is that it’s such a setback for the community of women firefighters. They’re still scrutinized that much more just because they’re women.


  5. Kris (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2006 @ 1:49 am

    This is truly a sad state of affairs, pun intended. But the thing to consider is that speaking out ain’t easy, and if this is happening, then it should be stopped. The issue of lesbianism isn’t the point of this case, but that a department tolerated a method of harassment, and retailation. If this were a guy, you are right, it would be all over the place. And people would be fired! Yesterday, I might add. But we feed into the “sexuality” aspect like its the problem- the real problem is abuse of power. The fact is dating in any job circle is dengerous, but their are also very successful relationships, IF the people are mature.
    Bleskacheck and Maresca are not mature but in fact power hungry and hate rejection. Oops. Have you seen these gals? Yikes.



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