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New York appeals court rules falsely calling someone 'gay' not slander

An appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday dismissed [decison, PDF] a lawsuit filed by a man seeking to recover damages because of a false rumor that he was gay. The court noted that because the man did not assert specific harm, the false statements must amount to "'slander per se'—those categories of statements that are ... injurious by their nature, and so noxious that the law presumes that pecuniary damages will result." The court acknowledged that while falsely calling someone gay may have fallen into this category in the past, a "tremendous social evolution" has greatly reduced the stigma associated with homosexuality. The court's decision does not bar recovery for plaintiffs who can demonstrate that specific harm occurred due to a false assertion of homosexuality.

Homosexuality and same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] remain controversial subjects in the US. On Thursday the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive], which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional because it interferes with a state's right to define marriage. Earlier this week, 25 gay and lesbian couples filed two lawsuits [JURIST report] against Illinois Governor Pat Quinn challenging the constitutionality of the state's same-sex marriage ban. National gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal [advocacy website] filed suit in April on behalf of eight same-sex couples against the state of Nevada claiming that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment [text] of the US Constitution.

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