With DOMA on the decline and gay marriage approval trickling into the national discussion, it seems that gay rights issues are popping up in states across the country. And the most recent one happened right in our own backyard. But this one is a bit different.
On Thursday, a court case called Yonaty v. Mincolla
made its way up to the Albany court house and was dismissed. In it, two friends argued over a gay rumor that got taken a little too far and the courts decided that labeling someone “gay” or a “homosexual” is not
defamation. The validity of the remark no longer matters, either.
Here’s a quick definition of defamation so we know what we’re talking about:
(n) – false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another; as by slander or libel; calumny.
After Thursday, an accusation of homosexuality will no longer be approached with this criteria in the state of New York. And this goes against precedent: it took us a few decades to understand that calling someone “gay” is not an ‘injury of the good reputation of another.’ Good grief.
But, the details of the case show us a deeply entrenched fear of the accusation; it’s almost the plot line to a really shitty episode of Happy Days
. Just try to follow this fact pattern
In Broome County, Jean Mincolla started telling people that Mark Yonaty was gay. Why? Because he wanted to break up Mark’s long-term relationship with his girlfriend and, for whatever the reason, he thought questioning the man’s sexuality would do the trick.
Anyway, Mincola told Ruthanne Koffman, a close friend of the girlfriend, and Koffman went on to tell the girlfriend’s mother, who went on to tell the girlfriend. Once she found out, it’s only logical that Yonaty would sue Mincolla, right? Of course.
It’s like six degrees of rumors mixed with an extraordinary dose of immaturity. But think about it: Yonaty was so upset that Mincolla would question his sexuality in front of his girlfriend that he sued him. It is this insecurity of homosexuality that still exists in certain places; this idea that gay constitutes fault. And the irony of it all: Yonaty isn’t gay!
Thankfully, Justice Thomas Mercure witnessed this wild paradox and made a decision that can all let us sleep a bit better at night:
“In light of the tremendous evolution in social attitudes regarding homosexuality…it cannot be said that current public opinion supports a rule that would equate statements imputing homosexuality with accusations of serious criminal conduct or insinuations that an individual
has a loathsome disease.”