The Gay Rights Paradox: To Say Gay Or Not To Say Gay, That Is Howard K. Stern’s Question (And Ours)

On the day that Howard K. Stern was tossed in jail on charges of conspiring to furnish drugs to Anna Nicole Smith before her death comes another entirely different and entirely weird case involving Howard K. Stern. And it is directly related to an issue surrounding gay rights that keeps coming up: Lambda Legal Urges Federal Court to Reject Gay Defamation Claim:

Today at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Lambda Legal filed a brief arguing that the Court should reject Howard K. Stern’s claim that being called gay is defamatory per se and entitles him to collect damages.

Saying that someone is gay is not an insult. Being identified as gay is neither bad nor shameful – in life and under the law,” said Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. “At its core, defamation is about disgrace. Recognition of this defamation claim would demean gay men and lesbians by giving credence to antigay biases that New York has repeatedly rejected.”

This paradox has cropped up a whole lot recently, and it’s a whole lot of confusing. Is it good or bad to call someone “gay?”

Bad to say it– Wanda Sykes said, “Don’t say ‘That’s So Gay.‘”
Good to say it — The Tennessee Assembly said Don’t say “gay” in front of kids.
Bad to say it — Ashton Kutcher Twittered and said it’s bad to say gay.
Good to say it — Kanye West said, “That’s so good, it’s gay!

And now Lambda Legal, every gay person’s best friend, is saying that it’s not bad to call someone gay?

What the hell are we supposed to do?

It’s bad to say, “That’s gay!” We all know that’s right. But then how can Lambda Legal say, “Saying that someone is gay is not an insult.” But what is wrong with being called “gay?” It’s really not any worse than being called “blond-haired,” so how could someone sue for being called Blondie? More from the Stern case:

In 2007, Howard K. Stern filed a lawsuit claiming that he was defamed by passages in a book titled Blonde Ambition: The Untold Story Behind the Death of Anna Nicole Smith. Lambda Legal’s friend-of-the-court brief argues that Stern’s first two claims of defamation rest on the flawed premise that being called gay would expose someone to public hatred and shame – a premise that is disproved daily throughout New York, including through the service of New York’s many openly gay and lesbian public officials.

Validation of this type of defamation claim, and its underlying premise, would have a demeaning effect toward gay men and lesbians, similar to the effect caused by state sodomy laws before they were struck down by the US Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, Lambda Legal’s 2003 landmark victory. These claims are out of step with New York law and public policy, which has repeatedly affirmed the rights and dignity of gay men and lesbians.

The case is Howard K. Stern v. Rita Cosby et al.
Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal is handling the matter for Lambda Legal.

This amicus brief is saying that it’s bad to say, “It’s bad to say ‘gay!'” But what about Wanda and Ashton? What about Kanye and Tennessee legislators? Is Lambda Legal going to make it harder to argue that saying, “That’s so gay” is bad?

I really am stuck on this. Is calling someone “gay” a good or a bad thing?

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