There was a delightful coincidence today in the gay world of gay law. Just as the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit was declaring the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, a New York appeals court came along with a ruling that calling someone gay can no longer be slander because saying someone is a homosexual is no longer defamatory. As society is now constructed, it’s no longer an insult to call someone gay.
As the DOMA ruling is a federal case expected to end up in the Supreme Court, and as it concerns the very hot issue of same-sex marriage, it’s naturally getting most of the attention, with (as of this writing) nearly ten times as many Google News listings as the New York case.
But DOMA hangs on the thorny but boring old question of states’ rights. The defamation ruling is a heckuva lot more interesting. The long-established idea that it’s defamatory to falsely call someone homosexual, the NY court said, is no longer valid, being “based on a false premise that it is shameful and disgraceful to be described as lesbian, gay or bisexual.” Commenting on the ruling, a Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal noted that it “is not an insult. Being identified as gay is neither bad nor shameful – not in our society, and not under the law.”
He’s not just speaking aspirationally. Today the law is actually with him, at least in some quarters.
Whereas back on the DOMA front, the unconstitutionality ruling won’t even be enforced pending an expected appeal to the Supremes. And look at the states the First Circuit covers, anyway: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. How gay can you get? (So sue me.)