CULTURE DIGEST: Saying 'you're gay' is no longer slander, court rules

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jun 08, 2012 5:52 PM
CULTURE DIGEST: Saying 'you're gay' is no longer slander, court rules
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- An increasing acceptance of homosexual lifestyles has led a New York state appellate court to join a growing list of courts that have ruled it's no longer defamatory to be falsely called "gay."

The New York court threw out a lawsuit filed by a man who said a false accusation of his being gay or bisexual led to the break-up of a relationship with his longtime girlfriend and caused him emotional distress.

The lawsuit was "based on a false premise that it is shameful and disgraceful to be described as lesbian, gay or bisexual," Justice Thomas Mercure of the New York Appellate Division's Third Department wrote in the court's unanimous decision to dismiss the suit, reversing decades of rulings to the contrary. "These appellate division decisions are inconsistent with current public policy and should no longer be followed."

Mercure cited "the tremendous evolution in social attitudes regarding homosexuality" that excludes it from such defamation as "accusations of serious criminal conduct or insinuations that an individual has a loathsome disease," the Associated Press reported.

New York last year legalized gay marriage, now allowed in six states. The U.S. military allows gays to openly serve, and President Obama has endorsed gay marriage.

The suit that Marky Yonaty of the Binghamton area brought against Jean Mincolla could still face another outcome on appeal.

Legal experts say such court rulings are becoming more common but are difficult to track because of relatively few slander suits and varying state laws, AP reported.

"The courts are all over the place on whether it is defamatory to refer to a person as gay," W. Wat Hopkins, a Virginia Tech communications professor, said. "In some jurisdictions, a court would hold that such a reference is defamatory, and in others courts would rule as … the judge did in New York."

As recently as 1993, actor Tom Cruise won a $10 million suit against a gay pornography star who falsely claimed he had a homosexual relationship with Cruise that ended the actor's marriage to Nicole Kidman.

SURROGACY INDUSTRY BOOMING IN INDIA -- Surrogate motherhood has become a major industry in India, with hundreds of women renting out their bodies to carry and give birth to children for foreigners.

It is estimated there were 2,000 births to surrogate Indian mothers last year and there are 1,000 unregulated clinics in the country, but those figures are only guesses, an expert said.

"Nobody in India actually knows for sure how many babies are born through these commercial enterprises and how many places are involved," said Radhey Sharma, who studied the issue for the Indian government and chaired a committee that has recommended standards to provide legal regulation of the industry.

The Sunday Telegraph, a London newspaper, reported May 26 on an investigation it conducted of India's surrogacy industry.

The investigation found, according to The Telegraph:

-- The industry is worth as much as $2.3 billion a year.

-- Births for British couples and singles, who go to India to circumvent laws in their home country, may have accounted for half of the surrogate cases last year in India.

A New Delhi clinic reported 26 surrogate births in March for people from such countries as the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, Spain and Japan. The Birthplace of Joy, another New Delhi clinic, said its clients were all foreigners and as many as half were same-sex couples.

"Nobody could have envisaged the sharp increase in Indian surrogacy for foreigners, and we accept this will not slow down, but in fact get more popular," Sharma said, according to The Telegraph.

A recent trend reported to the newspaper is foreign women who are able to conceive but use surrogates because they don't want to bear children.

"I do not encourage such people because mentally they are not good or fit," said Anoop Gupta, director of a Delhi clinic, the newspaper reported. "They are capable of giving birth, but the woman is worried about her figure or her career."

An Indian mother of two acting as a surrogate for an American couple died May 16 after eight months of pregnancy. Doctors delivered the baby by emergency Caesarean section before Premila Vaghela, 30, died, according to The Times of India. The baby survived and was placed in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit.

Bioethics specialist Wesley Smith has sharply criticized the practice of Americans and other westerners renting the wombs of poor women in other countries.

"This entitlement mentality is really getting out of hand in the West and turning living human bodies and their constituent parts into mere natural resources to be used and exploited by the well off," Smith wrote May 22 on his blog.

"Rich women will never rent their wombs. Rich women will never risk their lives, health and fecundity to help pay the rent. Rich women will never go through the potential trauma of gestating for nine months and the process of being impregnated by strangers' embryos only to have the child taken away at birth. No, that is work only fit for women who need money," he said.

LA. LEGISLATORS APPROVE PAIN-CAPABLE ABORTION BAN -- The Louisiana legislature has approved with only a sole dissenting vote a bill to ban abortions at 20 weeks or more into pregnancy based on evidence that a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point.

The House of Representatives passed the prohibition unanimously June 1, and the Senate voted 38-1 for it later the same day.

The House also unanimously gave final approval May 29 to legislation restricting the performance of abortions to doctors, The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to sign both bills into law.

Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, applauded legislators for approving the pain-capable ban.

"Modern medical science provides substantial compelling evidence that unborn children recoil from painful stimuli, that their stress hormones increase when they are subjected to any painful stimuli and that they require anesthesia for fetal surgery," Balch said.

N.H. LEGISLATURE VOTES TO OUTLAW PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION -- The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted May 30 to ban partial-birth abortion and outlaw fetal homicide.

The partial-birth abortion measure restricts a particularly gruesome method of abortion that normally involves an intact baby being delivered feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the infant's skull with surgical scissors before inserting a catheter into the opening and suctioning out the brain, killing the baby. The technique, which is outlawed in federal law, normally is performed in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.

The fetal homicide proposal makes the killing of an unborn child eight weeks or more into a pregnancy a felony that might result in a murder charge, according to the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph.

Both bills will go to Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat who has not announced whether he will sign them.

Both houses approved the partial-birth ban with the two-thirds majorities required to override a Lynch veto, the Telegraph reported. The House voted 210-108 for the fetal homicide measure, barely achieving the two-thirds required and leaving it only a couple of switched votes from falling short of an override.

TURKEY'S PRIME MINISTER CONDEMNS ABORTION -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described abortion as murder and called for limiting the practice to procedures that are medically necessary in the first eight weeks after fertilization.

"There is no difference in killing the fetus in a mother's womb or killing a person after birth," Erdogan said May 29, according to The New York Times.

He also compared abortion to a botched military airstrike in December that killed 34 civilians in Uludere, a village in southeastern Turkey. "Every abortion is an Uludere," he said, according to The Times.

Abortion is legal in Turkey through the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions for medical reasons are permitted later in pregnancy, according to the newspaper.

Erdogan, who leads an Islamic-based government, said abortion and births by Caesarean section are efforts to prevent population growth in Turkey. Women who give birth by Caesarean section, he said, normally can bear only one more baby, The Times reported. He wants each married couple to have at least three children.

Women's rights groups protested Erdogan's comments.

Compiled by Tom Strode and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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