Richard Simmons’ lawsuit against the National Enquirer hit an unexpected snag in court. A judge seems to be ready to rule in favor of the gossip outlet for a surprising reason.
Simmons sued both the Enquirer and Radar Online in May for a series of articles that alleged the 69-year-old fitness guru was transitioning to become a woman. He alleged that, while he holds no personal ill-feelings toward the transgender community, the articles were false and defamatory to his character. According to The Hollywood Reporter, his lawyers argued that, as a public figure, he has a legal right to “not be portrayed as someone he is not.” However, a judge is tentatively ruling that alleging someone is transgender is not necessarily defamatory.
Although the outlet notes that no official ruling has been made, the court is making it clear that it plans to treat the issue of claiming someone is transgender the same way it would treat claims of race, illness or other “immutable characteristics.”
"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 sizeable portion of the population who hold prejudices against those characteristics, misidentification of a person as transgender is not actionable defamation absent special damages," L.A. Superior Court judge Gregory Keosian said.
He went on to explain that, while being transgender may subject a person to ridicule or prejudice from a large portion of the population, “the court will not validate those prejudices by legally recognizing them.”
However, according to Variety, Simmons’ lawyers are trying to make the case that the court has a responsibility to legally recognize those prejudices rather than plan ahead for an ideal world in which they do not exist.
“The object of the National Enquirer was to do everything they could to humiliate this person,” said attorney Neville Johnson, who represents Simmons. “They made it up entirely out of whole cloth. I submit that when you make something up intentionally… and put it on the cover, there’s an inference you can make that somebody’s reputation is going to be harmed.”
Keosian is thinking on the matter and is expected to give a written ruling soon.