Lambda Legal Urges Federal Court to Reject Gay Defamation Claim
(New York, March 13, 2009) — Today at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Lambda Legal filed a brief arguing that the Court should reject Howard K. Stern's claim that being called gay is defamatory per se and entitles him to collect damages.
"Saying that someone is gay is not an insult. Being identified as gay is neither bad nor shameful — in life and under the law," said Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. "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."
In 2007, Howard K. Stern filed a lawsuit claiming that he was defamed by passages in a book titled Blonde Ambition: The Untold Story Behind the Death of Anna Nicole Smith. Lambda Legal's friend-of-the-court brief argues that Stern's first two claims of defamation rest on the flawed premise that being called gay would expose someone to public hatred and shame — a premise that is disproved daily throughout New York, including through the service of New York's many openly gay and lesbian public officials. Validation of this type of defamation claim, and its underlying premise, would have a demeaning effect toward gay men and lesbians, similar to the effect caused by state sodomy laws before they were struck down by the US Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, Lambda Legal's 2003 landmark victory. These claims are out of step with New York law and public policy, which has repeatedly affirmed the rights and dignity of gay men and lesbians.
The case is Stern v. Rita Cosby, et al.
Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal is handling the matter for Lambda Legal.
Erin Baer 212-809-8585 ext 267; Email: [email protected]