Lambda Legal has fired a warning shot at Atlanta Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli: It is not defamatory to call someone gay.
Lambda was responding to legal action taken by Mughelli's attorney against gossip and gay blogs that published the claims of a man who says he had a long-term sexual relationship with the baller. The cease and desist letters sent by Phaedra Parks promised to sue for damages unless the posts were removed and retracted.
The letter (pdf) reads in part:
Although as of this writing we do not represent any of those to whom you have written, we write to explain to you and to the internet sites which you have written, that under the law of Georgia (and of the other states) it is not defamatory to describe a person as gay, lesbian or bisexual nor is it defamatory to claim that someone had a consensual, intimate adult relationship with someone of the same sex. Moreover your claim that someone falsely described as gay is entitled to collect monetary damages demeans those who are gay, lesbian and bisexual. ... The Georgia Supreme Court has never held that describing someone as gay,lesbian or bisexual is defamatory (or defamation per se) and it is inconceivable that it would do so for the first time in 2010.
Says Attorney Beth Littrell in a statement: "Saying that someone is gay is not an insult. Being identified as gay is neither bad nor shameful–not in life nor under the law." Littrell urges Mughelli's attorneys to drop their action and warns them the courts would rule against them and award damages to the defendants. The attorney also cites Lawrence v. Texas, Lambda Legal's 2003 landmark victory that struck down sodomy laws.
In August 2009, a federal court rejected Howard K. Stern's suit against MSNBC's Rita Cosby on similar grounds, saying that merely being described as gay is "not" defamatory per se.
On January 5, an Atlanta-based gossip blog published detailed but unsubstantiated accounts of a man's long-term, alleged sexual relationship with an unnamed Falcons player. The next day Mughelli was named. The blog later published a video of Francois Sloan, a 36-year-old Jersey City, NJ hair stylist who claimed to be the source. The Ovie Mughelli "outing" went viral across black entertainment and news blogs, most of the black gay blogosphere and many sports blogs.
The 29-year-old Mughelli was originally drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2003. Mughelli signed a six-year, $18 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. That's around the same time that Francois Sloan claims Mughelli "abruptly" ended their relationship.
You May Want to Read:
Ovie Mughelli Takes Legal Action on Gay Rumors