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Alums Sue American University Over Gay Newsletter Prank

Two alums of American University are suing the school, according to the afer a newsletter went out to fellow classmates identifying them as recently married "life partners". The newsletter also reportedly said they were "leaders of a nonexistent group called the Gay Rights Brigade."

Americanuniversity"Ross Weil, 29, and Brett Royce, 28, college buddies and former New York housemates, filed a $1.5 million defamation suit against American University in Manhattan federal court on Aug. 30, claiming the school acted maliciously and with 'gross negligence' by printing the announcement. The Class Notes section of the spring edition of American Magazine, a quarterly publication for the Washington, D.C., university, asserted that Weil and Royce tied the knot in Boston on June 10, 2006.... The lawsuit declares both men have been harmed by the newsletter's mistake - even though they say there's nothing wrong with being gay. 'It has nothing to do with homophobia,' [lawyer Michael] Kaufman insisted."

GAY HANKY-PRANKY SPURS $1.5M ALUM-LETTER LAWSUIT [ny post]

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Comments

  1. The stupidest part of this is that if they HAD NOT sued, no one other than the handful of alums who had read that item would know. Now that they made the Post, their douchebag-ness will be well-known.

    Posted by: tjc | Sep 10, 2007 10:46:34 AM


  2. I hope American University pays millions for ruining Ross and Brett's lives with these outrageous claims of homosexual activity... even though "there's nothing wrong with being gay."

    *fart*

    Posted by: JOHN IN MANHATTAN | Sep 10, 2007 11:43:00 AM


  3. I'll be so glad when we finally get to the point that calling someone gay won't be considered grounds for a defamation suit any more than calling someone Catholic, Jewish, or German would be.

    I'll also be glad to see the day when no one feels the need to put the words "accused of being" or "admits to being" directly in front of the word "gay".

    And finally, I'll be glad to see the day when no politician, celebrity or sports star feels the need to call a news conference to deny the "charges" of homosexuality with some lame line like, "I am NOT gay; I have NEVER been gay".

    I'm not gonna hold my breath though.

    Posted by: Zeke | Sep 10, 2007 11:57:32 AM


  4. If there's nothing wrong with being gay, then how exactly were the men harmed? Where is the defamation?

    Posted by: Gregg | Sep 10, 2007 12:00:41 PM


  5. Yes, it is a sad world we live in when being called a homosexual can "hurt" someone's lives, but that's not really the point here. Their lawsuit is perfectly justified. It is those who falsely reported lies who are the homophobes here. If the intent was malicious to embarrass or insult the two men by calling them gay, then those who are responsible should have to pay for that and they are the people we (gay people) should be angry at here. They are calling someone gay as an insult to mock them. That's totally unacceptable. Don't make villians out of the men filing the lawsuit. Gay people themselves are harmed everyday in society for being gay. Now, we can smile and say to these guys, "...now you know how it feels", but again, they're not the ones initially responsible for perpetuating the idea that being called gay is an insult, it's whoever falsely reported the lie with malicious intent by making "being gay" an insult to mock.

    Posted by: Patrick | Sep 10, 2007 12:00:57 PM


  6. Yes, it is a sad world we live in when being called a homosexual can "hurt" someone's lives, but that's not really the point here. Their lawsuit is perfectly justified. It is those who falsely reported lies who are the homophobes here. If the intent was malicious to embarrass or insult the two men by calling them gay, then those who are responsible should have to pay for that and they are the people we (gay people) should be angry at here. They are calling someone gay as an insult to mock them. That's totally unacceptable. Don't make villians out of the men filing the lawsuit. Gay people themselves are harmed everyday in society for being gay. Now, we can smile and say to these guys, "...now you know how it feels", but again, they're not the ones initially responsible for perpetuating the idea that being called gay is an insult, it's whoever falsely reported the lie with malicious intent by making "being gay" an insult to mock.

    Posted by: Patrick | Sep 10, 2007 12:03:42 PM


  7. This would be borderline defamation as they are not famous, but they are just hoping to win the lottery with a settlement. No actual harm was done. These are tort claims under "false light" for non-public figures. Larry Craig is essentially trying to make a similar case against his arrest.

    Posted by: anon (gmail.com) | Sep 10, 2007 12:55:09 PM


  8. OR Patrick -
    They could have simply written a letter to the editor of their alum magazine and point out the "joke," how they aren't gay and how they think the stunt was juvenile and beneath the perps in this day and age.

    Maybe get some other publicity around this kind of a high-road response and draw attention to the immaturity of the gag.

    Nah, not in this day and age. Sue. Anyone and everytone looking for any reason to sue. I hate people.

    Posted by: ATLSteve | Sep 10, 2007 12:55:35 PM


  9. I don't understand the animosity expressed here toward the two men. it seems that whoever perpetrated this as a joke, or worse, invented this story out of whole cloth. and to what end? to embarrass? to ridicule? the implication is that being gay is something to laugh about. it is wrong-headed to be angry at the victims of a lie while giving a pass to the one(s) who (for no valid reason) initiated it. whether the aggrieved have a reason to be offended is completely beyond the point. i don't blame them at all for suing.

    Posted by: nic | Sep 10, 2007 1:09:39 PM


  10. Nic - the point here is that this "lie" is not actually harmful if there is nothing wrong with being gay. It would be like someone writing an alumni note that said a person was blond when in actuality they are brunette. Would they be justified in suing then?

    And please - 1.5 million???!!!???!!! How is that justifiable?

    Thank you Tom Cruise for helping give these lawsuits validity.

    Posted by: Gregg | Sep 10, 2007 1:17:51 PM


  11. Gregg, but the lie can be harmful. It has nothing to do with if there is nothing wrong with being gay. In this country there are states where people can be fired from their jobs for being gay. People can be denied housing for being gay, denied entry into the military, disowned by their families or kicked out of their churches. While we don't know how these two men claim they were "harmed", it will be up to a court of law to determine that and what compensation they deserve from it.

    Frankly, if someone who uses homosexuality as a form of mockery to hurt someone else, straight or gay, especially in print and gets caught, I think financial judgments against such people is a good way to go to get it to stop.

    Posted by: Patrick | Sep 10, 2007 1:43:29 PM


  12. Ooops, I retract my previous second paragraph. If a malicious lie is made against anyone in print, a financial judgement against such people is a good way to get them to stop.

    Posted by: Patrick | Sep 10, 2007 1:52:21 PM


  13. I don't think anyone is giving a "pass" to anyone. The folks who wrote it were juvenile and so is the response.

    And please, don't tell me the people who actually know, live and work around these guys would start firing them from work, kicking them out of housing, etc. over some blurb in a class notes section of an obscure alum magazine.

    I agree with the first comment - these guys took a stupid "joke" by some idiots and made sure everyone knew about it. I would be curious to see how they can prove they have been "harmed."

    Could be an interesting case though - in this day and age, is printing that someone is gay considered libel or slander?

    Posted by: ATLSteve | Sep 10, 2007 1:54:29 PM


  14. Good job Patrick for rediscovering defamation law as if it hasn't been used for the past 30 years, and no Atlsteve, printing that someone is gay cannot be considered libel or slander because either only involves false claims of illegality or illegal acts and the latter is spoken not printed. It may constitute defamation, however. Imagine saying some guy who is married is gay even though you know he is not--that would be defamation because it could hurt his marriage.

    Note that not a day goes by on this an many other blogs where posters like us regularly defame the subjects of blog entries, particularly politicians and celebrities, without a second thought. Be careful to not go too far even if the odds of getting sued are very low.

    Posted by: anon (gmail.com) | Sep 10, 2007 2:05:10 PM


  15. Ah AU, my alma mater (and place where I came out) in the news again!

    Considering the events that have put AU in the news recently, this by far seems the most tame. I'm just happy this is a "scandal" that doesn't involve the president's office for once.

    I found most students at AU to be ahead of the curve on understanding ans support of gay students. There are always idiots, and in the case of AU they were there to be trained to be right-wing staffers. There were a couple of anti-gay pranks when I was there (93-97) but I don't think this has anything to do with being gay; it is just one homophobe taunting two other homophobes.

    The idea that the alumni newsletter should have to verify the content of class notes they receive is just silly. Like more serious publications, they should just retract it in the next issue.

    All that being said, I wouldn't sue the alumni newsletter for anything. They might retaliate by putting me back on their mailing list!

    Posted by: Justin | Sep 10, 2007 2:43:57 PM


  16. What are they moaning about? Boo hoo, people get called things every day. Take it like men and grow up!

    Posted by: EmmaG | Sep 10, 2007 3:18:57 PM


  17. i think it is presumptuous to conclude from our limited knowledge that this lie is harmless to these individuals. i am not omniscient, as apparently some of you are. i cannot claim to know what type of area they live in, who their friends and associates are, and much less how they will react. but lies and rumor can be especially pernicious under different circumstances, places and times.

    moreover, we cannot operate under the false premise that all people think there is nothing wrong with being gay. we all know that to not be true. yet, the two men don't think being gay is bad, and good on them. but why should we hold it against them because other people do? remember that they did nothing to cause this to happen to them.

    the point, as i see it, is that someone for whatever reason chose to fabricate a story that, clearly, THEY thought would expose the targets to embarrassment, ridicule or injury. so, i do not fault the "victims" of this puerile exercise. the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the idiot(s) who initiated it.

    these two men have every right to seek redress if they feel they were harmed. and, the sophomoric ass-wipes who did this should have to defend their actions. if there is no merit to the case, then it will be dismissed. but, that's what the courts are for.

    i do not want to hear the laments of the tort-reformists and those who think that our society is overly litigious. there should be ready and easy access to the courts for all citizens.

    Posted by: nic | Sep 10, 2007 3:40:03 PM


  18. NIC = one of the plaintiffs or their attorney, or someone involved in or contemplating a similar suit

    hey Nic - doesn't the story say they live in Manhattan? I think they should be OK there in terms of being gay...

    i would rank this suit just below the $65 million pants in DC

    Posted by: ATLSteve | Sep 10, 2007 3:48:24 PM


  19. I used to do this when I was in college, but just with random names picked out of the phone book. I'd include a number for them to RSVP and giggle.

    Posted by: Gitai | Sep 10, 2007 4:51:31 PM


  20. "The idea that the alumni newsletter should have to verify the content of class notes they receive is just silly."

    Justin, but this was written in the New York Post article...

    "Melissa Reichley, Class Notes editor for the newsletter, would not comment on the item about Weil and Royce.

    Asked whether the school checks information before publishing, Reichley said, "Yes, of course we do.""

    Posted by: Patrick | Sep 10, 2007 6:52:04 PM


  21. ALTSTEVE;

    it really doesn't matter what YOU think is innocuous or appropriate for THEM. you can surmise what you will and make assumptions about them (and me, and anyone else, for that matter). that is your right, as it is their right to seek redress, for harms real or perceived.

    however, this case is hardly analogous to the $65 million slacks case nor to someone publicly disputing the natural color of ones hair, as someone suggested above. let's not be needlessly facetious.

    explain to me, please, how a dry cleaner losing a pair of your pants is remotely similar to someone willfully spreading lies about you. here, there actually was a harm committed. it goes to the heart of ones identity.

    all of a sudden, because someone was totally irresponsible, these two need to start making and fielding calls, when, had they been left alone, there would have been nothing to explain. everyone has a right to be left alone, in peace.

    Posted by: nic | Sep 10, 2007 9:51:21 PM


  22. If they believe there's nothing wrong with being gay, where's the harm? They should just ask for a retraction since it was false information. I don't know that the Alum newsletter has any burden to confirm info given to it. I hope they kept the original source of the prank, however. There might be something worth pursuing there. I hope one day being (or accused of) being gay or lesbian won't matter any more than being accused of being straight.

    Posted by: queendru | Sep 10, 2007 10:39:59 PM


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