January 11th, 2009
We are trying out Gabriel Arana as a possible new contributor to Box Turtle Bulletin. Gabriel is a graduate of linguistics from Cornell University, and he is now pursuing a career in journalism. Some of you may remember him as a former patient of ex-gay therapist Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. While he’s had a personal blog for some time, he’s new to the world of LGBT community blogging. He’s an Arizona native — specifically from Nogales on the U.S./Mexico border — but he now makes his home among the bright lights of New York City. Please welcome Gabriel to the pad. — Jim Burroway.
With the LGBT legal community’s eyes set on fighting for marriage rights, another important issue that reinforces negative attitudes toward gays has gone largely unmentioned: the law concerning defamation and false accusations of homosexuality.
Rulings vary by jurisdiction over whether it is defamatory to out someone falsely, reflecting the fragmented evolution of social and legal attitudes in different areas of the country.
Examples include the case of a Los Angeles judge who awarded Tom Cruise $10 million in a libel suit against a man who claimed Cruise was his lover. Other courts have ruled the opposite, including Boston judge Nancy Gertner, who in 2004 ruled that “a statement implying that an individual is a homosexual is hardly capable of a defamatory meaning.”
The issue here — and its significance for LGBT policy — is perhaps more easily understood by analogy to a schoolyard fight. If a kid calls another kid gay, should the teacher tell him to stop or, believing that there is nothing wrong with being gay and being identified as such, ignore the negative consequences that arise from the teasing?
Some background: According to libel (printed statements) and slander (typically oral statements) law, a plaintiff must prove the following in order to establish defamation:
There are two countervailing positions to consider:
1. Courts should not recognize defamation lawsuits based on the (false) accusation of homosexuality.
This is perhaps the goal — to live in a society in which being gay is a neutral descriptor that has neither a positive nor negative connotation. Defamation lawsuits based on gay accusations enshrine the perception of homosexuality as something bad and further reinforce this belief. Courts are not in a position to define homosexuality as a stain on someone’s reputation.
2. Courts should recognize such lawsuits until the social mores of the society change.
No one wants to wait for social norms to change, but the standard for harm is subjective: whether or not calling someone gay “[hurts] the reputation” of a person depends on how the community feels about homosexuality. The function of the Court is not to determine whether a certain attribute is desirable or not, but merely establish that being labeled as such leads to diminished reputation/harm. Dismissing such suits leaves plaintiffs who have lost their jobs or suffered other damages with no recourse.
Of course the question of whether people who actually are gay should be outed or not (e.g. as in the case of gay politicians like Mark Foley who pass anti-gay legislation) is not a defamation issue — the one surefire defense against defamation is that the published information is true.
In any scenario, the solution to this problem from a policy standpoint involves changing public opinion, a task taken up by a good number of activist organizations. The more thorny issue is what the strategy among legal advocates should be. This may or may not be a case in which the law must trail — and not lead — social progress.
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.
In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.
Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.