The fact that it's possible to take someone to court if they call you gay - the idea that speculation about a person's sexual orientation, founded or not, is so damaging, so grave an insult, that it amounts to defamation - has long been a blood-boiler for me. (Remember when Tom Cruise did it a decade ago?) It reinforces the subconscious homophobia that's still very much a part of our society by implying that there's something inherently subversive, scandalous, salacious, or shameful about having a non-heterosexual orientation.
So you can imagine how happy I was to read this report from the New York Times about a recent verdict in New York state court that, according to reporter Ginia Bellafante, "stripped the word 'gay' of any derogatory [legal] connotation:"
It is now no longer considered slanderous in the State of New York to falsely call someone gay. Gay has, in the eyes of the court, as it has in the minds of sane people, lost currency as an accusation. Say I chose to live my life as a telenovela and decided to break up my best friend's wedding by announcing in a rehearsal dinner toast that her husband was gay. That husband would now have as little ground for a lawsuit against me as if I had described him as blond, pigeon-toed, happy or merely mediocre at Texas Hold 'Em.
In arriving at its decision, the court erased decades of rulings that treated inaccurate descriptions of sexual orientation as defamation. "These appellate division decisions are inconsistent with current public policy and should no longer be followed," the unanimous decision, written by Justice Thomas Mercure, stated.