More courts rule calling someone ‘gay’ is not slander

New York appeal court throws out lawsuit based on false claim it is 'shameful' to be called gay

More courts rule calling someone ‘gay’ is not slander
02 June 2012

More courts across the United States are ruling that calling someone ‘gay’ is not slanderous.

The latest court to do so is an appeal court in New York City last Thursday (31 May), and was hailed by gay rights groups as a small but important victory.

A woman was being sued for allegedly spreading a rumor that a New York man was gay in the hope of breaking up his relationship with another woman.

In a 4-0 decision, the New York Appellate Division’s Third Department threw out the lawsuit before it went to trial, and said calling someone gay was not defamatory.

The court said the lawsuit was based on ‘the false claim that it is shameful and disgraceful to be described as lesbian, gay or bisexual.’

New York gay legal consultant Curtis Houlihan said: ‘This word has been sort of de-fanged in some ways. I suppose some would say this is empowering…but that is not going to change the level of bigotry and discrimination in this country. But we’ll take every little victory.’

In 1994, North Carolina’s Court of Appeals said a person can sue over being called a homosexual only if he or she can prove actual damages. The court said the law cannot automatically assume such remarks will inflict damages.

In 2003, actor Tom Cruise won $10 million (£6505000, €8056000) in a case against a gay porn actor who claimed to a French magazine that he had an affair with the star that led Cruise to leave Nicole Kidman. Cruise said the claim had affected his ability to land leading man roles.  

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