It isn’t libelous to say someone is transgender or transitioning gender, a new court ruling says. Richard Simmons, the longtime fitness advocate, sued the National Enquirer and Radar Online this year over their stories claiming he was transitioning to become a woman. But, his lawsuit is being thrown out.
The ruling was tentative Aug. 30 and will be official soon. iMediaEthics asked Simmons’ lawyers if they will appeal and when the ruling will be final; one of his lawyers, Neville Johnson, responded that he didn’t know when the ruling will be made official. The Hollywood Reporter uploaded a copy of the tentative ruling here. Simmons sued in May, asking for an apology, retraction and damages over the articles. The Superior Court of California in the County of San Diego explained on its website that a “tentative ruling is the proposed ruling of the court.”
The ruling is significant because it may be the first to find being called transgender isn’t libelous. “The ruling appears to be the first to address the question of whether being labeled as transgender is sufficiently harmful to one’s reputation to be libelous,” Variety reported. “Courts have long ruled that misidentifying someone’s race is not defamatory, and [Judge Gregory] Keosian argued that the transgender classification should operate in the same way. He is set to issue a final ruling in the coming days.”
The L.A. Superior Court judge Gregory Keosian ruled being described as transgender or transitioning, isn’t defamatory, according to Variety. Keosian ruled, “While, as a practical matter, the characteristic may be held in contempt by a portion of the population, the court will not validate those prejudices by legally recognizing them.
That said, Keosian noted “the difficulties and bigotry facing transgender people” aren’t “minimal or nonexistent.”
Another of Simmons’ lawyers, Rodney Smolla, argued the National Enquirer was trying to “humiliate” Simmons and that the two outlets fabricated the story “out of whole cloth.”
In a story on its website, Radar Online reported that its lawyers argued in court filings that being transgender or transitioning isn’t “inherently shameful or odious” and doesn’t “impute negative characteristics.” Further, they claimed there was no evidence its reports harmed Simmons.