Is it an insult to call someone gay? A New York court says no. In a significant judgement, the court in Albany, New York ruled that calling a straight person gay is no longer slander, at least in that state.
Mark Yonaty, a straight man, sued a woman, Jean Mincolla, for spreading rumours about him being gay, apparently in an effort to get his girlfriend to break up with him.
An Appellate Division’s Third Department court ruled on Thursday that due to changes in social norms, being called gay is no longer defamation, in the same way that being called black is not defamation.
Justice Thomas Mercure wrote that previous decisions that saw being called gay as grounds for slander “are inconsistent with current public policy and should no longer be followed”.
Lambda Legal, which argued before the court that recognising defamation based on describing someone as lesbian, gay or bisexual is incompatible with New York’s public policy on LGBT people, welcomed the news.
“At its core, defamation is about disgrace. Recognition of this defamation claim would demean gay men and lesbians by giving credence to antigay biases that New York has repeatedly rejected,” said Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Thomas W. Ude Jr.
“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.”
The case could still be appealed before a definitive ruling is made.