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Equality news round-up: New York appeals court says calling someone “gay” isn’t defamatory, and more

Marriage equality

By Scottie Thomaston

– An appeals court in New York has rejected a claim of defamation based on someone who was called “gay”. Lambda Legal issued a statement saying, in part, “Saying that someone is gay is not an insult. Being identified as gay is neither bad nor shameful – not in our society, and not under the law.”

– Anti-LGBT murders increased in 2011.

– The SEIU has a resolution to bargain for transgender-inclusive health care.

– The White House continues to dodge questions on a contractor executive order, after ExxonMobil voted against LGBT protections.

– PFLAG on bullying.

– The New Jersey Senate has rejected a gay court appointee.

– Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog and Ian Millhiser at Think Progress have some more analysis of today’s First Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Gill v. OPM striking down DOMA.


  • 1. Sagesse  |  May 31, 2012 at 3:15 pm


  • 2. Bruce  |  May 31, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    What a ridiculous decision! Defamation is not determined by WORDS, it is determined by INTENT. If calling someone "gay", or "a Jew", or "a fatso" is intended to denigrate and shame, then that name calling is by its very definition "defamatory"– even if the person happens to BE "gay", "Jewish", or "overweight". Calling someone who is NOT gay, etc. by the a term which has historically been hurled at a minority group with intent to defame is virtually without exception intended to be a slur– even "in our society and under the law".

    A simple "acid test"? Replace any of these words with the term "negro", or "colored", and see if THAT doesn't appear to be defamatory, even "in our society and under the law". The fact that a term has entered common usage in referring to a particular minority does NOT lessen its impact when used disparagingly. In an era where "gays" are still considered by MANY to be "second class citizens", this distinction remains stronger than ever.

  • 3. fiona64  |  June 1, 2012 at 9:08 am

    While I understand the point you are making, I think that the reasoning behind the decision is to eliminate the so-called "gay panic" defense. "He acted like he thought I was gay and I couldn't help it; I beat him to death" is no longer going to be acceptable if being presumed gay is no longer considered defamatory.

    A while back, someone in my circle opined that he should be allowed to beat up any "homo" who propositioned him. I pointed out that such a statement was absurd. When he asked me how I would respond if a lesbian propositioned me, opining that I would be equally offended, he was a little taken aback at my response:

    "Considering that it has happened, I told the lady I was flattered at her interest but that my orientation was elsewhere. Are you horrified when a woman finds you attractive, my friend, whether or not you return the interest? Do you offer to beat up the woman? No? Well, it's absolutely no different. You don't have to get ugly about someone finding you attractive. It is possible to decline politely and without violence. You might want to remember that."

    He told me that I had given him food for thought; I called that a "win" in my book.

  • 4. AnonyGrl  |  June 1, 2012 at 6:23 am

    I am actually on the others side of this debate. Call me gay. I am not, I am bi, but go ahead, and I will say, so what? Nothing wrong with being gay, so your words do not hurt me. Call me straight, same difference.

    Gay is only an epithet if you choose to accept it as such. You might as well insult me by calling me tall, or bald. I am both those things, but see nothing bad about either, so your words bounce right off me. Yes, words can hurt, certainly. But I say we embrace GAY as a compliment, and we take the sting out of it entirely.

  • 5. Gregory in SLC  |  June 1, 2012 at 6:40 am

    ditto for me…words/stares of disapproval bounce off me too…and if anyone calls me gay I feel and say THANK YOU!

    …though I've heard some compelling stories/arguments of those more sensitive and feel victimized/fearful of LGBT derogatory words.

  • 6. Scott Wooledge  |  June 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Lambda Legal and Empire State Pride Agenda also argued that "gay" is no a slur, per se.

    I agree with them. If we agree it's actionable as a foundation for a slander suit, we're conceding it's vicious, and insult and a slur and no one would want anyone to think they are gay.

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  • 8. Stefan  |  June 1, 2012 at 8:09 am

    There is a major difference between gay as a noun vs. adjective. Using it as a noun is not offensive in the slightest, while using it as an adjective very frequently is.

  • 9. AnonyGrl  |  June 1, 2012 at 8:51 am

    That is a good point too.

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