Judge claims he is doing us a solid
Los Angeles County Judge Gregory Keosian dismissed Richard Simmons lawsuit against National Enquirer owner American Media, saying that "it is simply not libelous or defamatory to call someone transgender."
Misidentification of a person as transgender is not actionable defamation .... The court will not validate those prejudices by legally recognizing them.
The ruling is potentially important for several reasons. As Keosian observes, it’s the first such ruling in California, which makes it seem like a harbinger of legal rulings to come nationwide. It also chips away at what may be the last legally acceptable standard of prejudice under the law, which is that directed at transgender persons and those exploring their gender identity.
There are plenty of signs that the impulse to discriminate in American society has moved from race and homosexuality to gender identity. That’s what underpins President Trump’s announced ban on transgender people serving in the military. Laws regulating which bathrooms transgender persons may use and which gender identity they must use on official documents such as drivers licenses are still on the books in some states and making their way through legislatures in others.
--Michael Hiltzik, LA Times
Transgender people are still considered immoral and distasteful and looked at with disapprobation in much of the community. There’s still a question about what bathrooms they can use, and they can’t serve in the military.
Those factors and others signify that labeling someone transgender is defamatory. A further indication is that the Enquirer’s own article was designed to humiliate and embarrass Simmons for allegedly transitioning gender, not to honor him for purportedly seeking out his true gender identity.
The court can’t legislate mores. The question the judge should weigh in deciding whether to let the lawsuit proceed is not what society should be, but what it is. He says he’s disappointed in the tentative ruling, but hopes Keosian may change his mind in the wake of a lengthy hearing held on Wednesday, and allow the question whether calling someone transgender is defamatory to be placed before a jury.
--Neville Johnson, Simmons' lawyer
Attorneys for American Media were not available for comment