Main | Monday, April 05, 2010

New Jersey District Court Rules:
Being Called Gay Is Not Defamatory

In a case involving radio shock jocks, a New Jersey district court has reversed an earlier precedent and ruled that defamation law no longer covers being called gay.
U.S. District Court Judge Joel Pisano reversed an earlier precedent and ruled that a person (even a public figure) cannot sue for defamation simply because he or she was called gay. Reversing a 2001 precedent, Lewis v. Harris, where a television star successfully sued a radio host for calling her a lesbian, Pisaso ruled that in contemporary New Jersey, saying that someone is gay--even if untrue--does not constitute defamation. The ruling, in Murphy v. Millenium Radio Group, 08, is a loss for freelance photographer Peter Murphy, who complained that "shock jocks" Craig Carton and Ray Rossi, hosts of the "Jersey Guys" show on WKXW 101.5 FM, "derogatorily inferred" he was a homosexual during a 45-minute segment.
Judge Pisano: "Given the decision in Lewis and the recognized evolution of the societal landscape, it appears unlikely that the New Jersey Supreme Court would legitimize discrimination against gays and lesbians by concluding that referring to someone as homosexual ’tends to so harm the reputation of that person as to lower him in the estimation of the community as to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him."

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