Lambda vs. Howard K. Stern

Anna Nicole Smith's lawyer-turned-lover Howard K. Stern is suing an author for $60 million for claiming in a book that he's gay. Lambda Legal doesn't like that, because there's "nothing shameful about being identified as gay."

BY Gabriel G. Arana

April 09 2009 11:00 PM ET

HOWARD K. STERN ANNA NICOLE SMITH X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

Whether the suits win
also depends on where they are filed. In Los Angeles in 2003,
Tom Cruise won a $10 million judgment in a gay defamation case
against a porn star who claimed he and Cruise had been lovers.
But in 2005, U.S. district court judge Nancy Gertner threw out
a similar suit filed in Massachusetts by Madonna's former
bodyguard.

In New York, Ude
pointed to the number of openly gay public officials -- and the
respect they are accorded -- as evidence that being gay is
increasingly accepted by society. According to the Gay and
Lesbian Leadership Institute, New York has 41 openly gay
elected or appointed public officials. Nationwide, the number
is 635.

Ude added that
recognizing these claims are also inconsistent with the
protections offered to gays and lesbians under New York state
law, which include employment and housing nondiscrimination,
the right to adopt children, and recognition of same-sex
marriages performed in other states.

"[State] laws --
if we look at them together -- express New York's policy
that gays and lesbians should be treated equally," he
said. "New York just is not a place where the law should
be reinforcing the idea that there's something shameful
about being gay."

Arguably the best legal
defense against gay defamation cases is Lambda Legal's 2003
win in
Lawrence v. Texas,

a ruling that decriminalized sodomy across the country. Before
Lawrence,

gay defamation cases were often won on the basis that labeling
someone gay connoted participation in "criminal"
behavior, but since the Supreme Court has struck down these
laws, such an argument no longer bears weight.

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