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Court Rules Calling Someone ‘Gay’ Not Slanderous

Court Rules Calling Someone ‘Gay’ Not Slanderous

 

A New York appellate court has reconsidered precedent and found that wrongly calling someone gay is of itself no longer to be considered slander.

Reports Wire National News:

A mid-level appeals court on Thursday wiped out decades of rulings, including its own, to say that society no longer treats false comments that someone is gay, lesbian or bisexual as defamation. Without defamation, there is no longer slander, the court ruled.

“These appellate division decisions are inconsistent with current public policy and should no longer be followed,” stated the unanimous decision written by Justice Thomas Mercure of the Appellate Division’s Third Department based in Albany. While the decision sets new case law in New York now, it could still go to a definitive ruling by the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

Prior to this, courts had found that being called gay was defamatory and therefore could amount to slander. However, in its Thursday ruling the court affirmed that such claims of defamation were “based on a false premise that it is shameful and disgraceful to be described as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

As noted above however, this case could still be appealed and even though such decisions have been made in other states, this does not preclude other courts in other jurisdictions holding that falsely labelling someone gay is defamatory.

This ruling comes from a lawsuit brought by Mark Yonaty, of the Binghamton area, who claimed that a woman had spread a rumor suggesting that he was gay with the express intent of making girlfriend break up with him.

When the suit was brought the woman’s lawyers attempted to have the slander aspect dropped on grounds that calling someone gay does not amount to defamation. A lower court judge rejected this, citing earlier higher court precedents, but on appeal the woman’s lawyers have found traction.

Legal scholars have pointed out that while being called gay may still be considered defamatory to certain groups, such groups would now be in a minority in civil society. As such, this ruling does not so much mark a change in the law as it does the law reflecting what has already happened in terms of civil society’s opinions about gay people.

 

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Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to Mr Truffle.

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48 comments

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11:59AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

I made a video about why Homosexuals should have equal rights. It’s at my YouTube channel Zarrakan, and here’s the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdK5ETOJusw

Watch it, share it, and join the fight against the evil Homophobes.

5:46PM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

Well, I see nothing wrong with being gay, but saying that someone who isn't gay is gay. (Wow, really showing my English skills with THAT sentence... oh, well.) Is like saying that a cristian is muslim. Not neccisarily a bad thing, but maybe not what they want you to say. I think the truth is important in these things, not just wether or not the lie is defamation.

10:06AM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

Thanks for posting!

3:59PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

1:19PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Thanks for posting!

12:53PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

I am a physician and I have seen physicians treat people differently when they think the individual is gay. I have worked in the VA setting, and I have seen people destroyed when the administration decides that someone working for them is Gay. I have worked in the midwest, and in many places a person thought gay is in jeopardy for his life!. I would agree NY may be a little ahead of its time, but Binghamton? I once went to an interview there just a few years ago and I think because I was Jewish the Muslim individual interviewing me brought me to lunch, but would not drink, eat nor sit down at the table at which I was eating - he stood!. I think this judges decision is very premature. The USA, especially the military, and this has been noted over and over a million times, can not tolerate even the thought that someone is gay. This could indeed be due to their own insecurities or `experiences?', but nonetheless this judge is way out of contact with the USA as a whole - and to me he is a total asshole. I guess if there is no legal recourse, we need to start selling NRA books to people who feel affected. They will need to obtain justice on their own! Bang! Bang!, Amen

6:12AM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

I cringe every time I hear young punks, frequently in cars, scream out "gay" or "faggot" to me or someone else. I live in San Francisco and this still happens here. So I feel that the term "gay" is still used to express hatred.

6:07AM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

I still cringe every time I hear some young punks, frequently in cars, scream out "gay" or "faggot" at me or someone else. I live in San Francisco and this still happens here! So, I think the term "gay" is still used to express hatred.

4:20AM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

This seems perfectly sensible - in an ideal world wrongly attributing somebody's gender preference should be as neutral as wrongly saying that they like Dundee cake or support a particular sports team.

Referring to somebody's gender preference in a derogatory way, implying that it *isn't* a neutral feature, is a minor form of hate crime and should be treated as such, but that's a separate issue from slander.

But as Rebecca W. says, nowadays the word "gay" may not even be a reference to sexual preference. There's a slight element of bigotry in the fact that a word for sexual preference came to be used to mean sub-standard but words change their meaning all the time and this one has in the past referred to a promiscuous heterosexual, as well as properly to somebody happy and outgoing. A young person who uses the word nowadays may not even be vaguely thinking of its sexual meaning, just as here in Britain the word "bugger" is extremely common but almost never has any sexual implication - 99.9% of the time it just refers to an irritating person or situation.

2:40AM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Tell me about it Rebecca W. I can't even sing "I'm so pretty and witty and gay any more. Because someone will think I'm Gay! So they really F'd up Julie Andrews happy go lucky song for tons of us!

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