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If someone tells someone else I am a lesbian, and I am NOT in fact a lesbian, is this slander?

Denver, CO |

My best friend is going through an ugly divorce. I have been helping her and her children in the absence of the husband/father. He is now saying that his soon to be ex wife and I are lesbians. My question is this: At what point does this become slander?

Attorney Answers 7

Posted

If and when it damages your reputation in the community (which is typically difficult to prove). Maybe ask a lawyer to send him a cease and desist letter.

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Posted

This is a question of state law, and the answer could vary depending on which state's law applies, as well as the specific facts of your case. In the past, many courts held that false imputations of homosexuality were defamatory per se--meaning that the person spoken of could recover damages without proving any actual injury to her reputation. However, in recent years, as gay rights have become much more widely accepted by society, some courts in some states have held that it is no longer justifiable to assume, without evidence of damage, that someone has suffered injury just because this kind of accusation has been made. See Label of Gay Is No Longer Defamatory, Court Rules, New York Times (May 31, 2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/nyregion/court-rules-calling-someone-gay-is-not-defamatory.html?_r=0. See also Yonaty v. Mincolla (N.Y. Sup. Ct. App. Div. 2012), http://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/ad3/Decisions/2012/512996.pdf Whether your state has such a rule is something you should discuss with an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. You should also discuss whether, even if the statements aren't defamatory per se, you might have a case to recover because of actual injuries caused by the false statements.

Good luck!
(see disclaimer)

The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

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Posted

Before any real damage occurs to you, you should talk with a local attorney to see what your legal options are in Colorado.

Good luck.

DISCLAIMER: David J. McCormick is licensed to practice law in the State of Wisconsin and this answer is being provided for informational purposes only because the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship.

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Posted

Based on the limited information, it sounds like he may be commiting slander. The question is - how has it damaged you. You should seek the assitance of a local attorney to help you if this continues. Good luck.

The above is general information only and is not legal advice. The information provided does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should not be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney until we sign a retainer agreement.

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Posted

In Colorado, false accusations that someone is or was a homosexual or had homosexual intercourse are not defamation per se but they may still give rise to actionable defamation claims if they caused damages. See Hayes v. Smith, 832 P.2d 1022 (Color. App. 1991) (available online at http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=8145164359170279596).

If the soon-to-be ex-husband made false accusations that his wife and you engaged in extramarital sex during his marriage, that accusation would be defamation per se in Colorado. Adultery is prohibited under Colorado's criminal code. See C.R.S. § 18-6-501 ("Any sexual intercourse by a married person other than with that person's spouse is adultery, which is prohibited.").

Other claims, such as intentional infliction of emotional distress or invasion of privacy, could be viable depending on the facts.

Contact a Colorado defamation attorney if you would like to get advice on your legal options and the costs of pursuing each option.

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Posted

If your friend is going through a divorce, then she has he power to ask the family law court to issue an order that shuts this conduct of her ex or soon-to-be ex down. That is the far far superior course of action here. Starting an independent defamation action in the middle of someone else's ugly divorce, one that raises difficult and evolving principles of law and for which you have no tangible damages, is a really bad idea. Just suppose you won (you won't, but suppose): now you have to collect a judgment against him. Your judgment must be paid by money that then won't be available for child or spousal support. And if you go into defamation litigation, be prepared to have every shred of your sexual history and activity -- and your friend's -- relentlessly examined by the opposing counsel. Your friendship will not survive. Almost any course is better here -- even an independent civil restraining order against him -- other than commencing a defamation action.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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Posted

I'm not sure it would be a good idea to throw fuel on a fire.

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