We cover the progression of gay rights pretty regularly on our blogs, from Illinois marriage to New York adoption. At least here in New York, it seems that the attitude towards homosexuality is finally turning to acceptance and equality.
Of course, with changes in attitudes come changes in law. Earlier this week, a New York appeals court ruled that calling someone gay is not per se defamatory. Prior to the decision, existing case law said that if you falsely called someone gay, it was by law, defamation.
In the lawsuit, the details of which are sparse, a man sued because the sexual preference allegations allegedly destroyed his relationship, reports ABC News.
The remaining per se defamation provisions are statements that:
- charge someone with a serious crime;
- tend to injure another in his or her trade, business or profession;
- the plaintiff has a loathsome disease; or
- impute unchastity to a woman
So, if someone were to call a woman a trollop with incurable herpes that sells mad cow beef burgers at her restaurant that were stolen by murdering a butcher, they would by law be committing some pretty harsh defamation.
Previously, they would have gotten bonus points for also calling her a lesbian.
Why the change of heart? Well, defamation, or more specifically, slander, is where someone says something untrue that harms the target's reputation. It usually has to be pretty severe. Merely saying, "that dude is a liar" probably wouldn't cause enough harm to allow recovery.
Back in our nation's more intolerant days, calling someone a homosexual was enough to sully their reputation. So was calling someone a communist. The court's decision merely reflects New York society's changing attitudes, as what was harmful speech thirty years ago now is not.