For centuries, some insults have been considered so offensive that a plaintiff didn’t have to prove harm in a defamation lawsuit. Someone who falsely reports that a woman is unchaste, for instance, is automatically presumed to have hurt her reputation.
- Forecast: Online Demand For Movies, TV Shows Will Top DVD Sales This Year
- Watch for falling formats: Walmart shows off its new UltraViolet service
- Report: Netflix beats Apple as No. 1 online movie supplier
The same has been true of calling someone “gay.” Spreading false rumors that someone is homosexual has long been part of the same small legal category known as “defamation per se.” Defamation refers to reporting or repeating false allegations that harm someone’s reputation in writing (libel) or in speech (slander).
Now, however, a New York state appeals court has followed other courts and rejected that rule, citing “this state’s well-defined public policy of protection and respect for the civil rights of people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual.”
The court’s decision came after a man in Binghamton, New York, sued a woman who repeated a rumor that he was gay in the hopes his girlfriend would break up with him. Mark Yonaty said the rumors destroyed his relationship with his girlfriend.