The National Enquirer published a story saying Simmons had undergone hormone treatment and was in the process of sexual reassignment. Richard says it’s a lie and sued for defamation.
In a tentative ruling on August 30, Judge Gregory Keosian said that being misidentified as transgender isn’t inherently defamatory in the eyes of the law.
It was undisputed that Simmons is a public figure and writing the article about him qualifies as a protected activity under the anti-SLAPP statute, the L.A. Superior Court Judge Gregory Keosian focused on Simmons’ likelihood of prevailing on his claims.
“[A]lthough it is true that Simmons would not need to introduce any evidence of reputational damage to proceed in a defamation cause of action seeking only the emotional damages caused by the allegedly defamatory statement, Simmons must be able to show, as a threshold matter, that the allegedly defamatory statement on its face was the type of statement that would ‘naturally tend’ to injure one’s reputation,” writes Keosian.
“This court finds that because courts have long held that a misidentification of certain immutable characteristics do not naturally tend to injure one’s reputation, even if there is a sizable portion of the population who hold prejudices against those characteristics, misidentification of a person as transgender is not actionable defamation absent special damages ………..being transgender may subject a person to hatred, contempt or ridicule from a portion of the population, but “the court will not validate those prejudices by legally recognizing them.”
Source: Hollywood Reporter
See the tentative decision in full below
In conclusion, Judge Keosian ruled that misidentifying someone as a transgender is not a defamatory statement. This is not surprising given the developments on LBGT laws in the US.
It will be interesting to try and predict whether Richard Simmons would be able to win the court case if he were to bring a lawsuit in a country where transgender is not a recognised gender, such as Malaysia, Singapore and other Asian countries.
If he could prove that he is considered a public figure in the Asian region as well and that the Enquirer did publish the article in the Asian region on the internet and is accessible by people in the Asian region, we predict that he might have a chance to win the court case, although the amount of damages that he could claim in the Asian region could be far lesser than what he could claim in the US.