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Scotland: Court dismisses ‘gay painter’ insult

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  1. Spanner1960 7 Nov 2012, 9:59am

    A man professionally applies paint to canvas. He also happens to be homosexual. I’d say “gay painter” would be a totally apt and appropriate description.

    The fact he may not have wanted other people to know this though, is an entirely different matter, and as far as I know, there are no laws preventing people being ‘outed’.

    I’m afraid the gay revolution may have helped many people, but it is also a double-edged sword if you prefer to keep your sexuality to yourself, as the law offers no protection in that quarter.

    1. barriejohn 7 Nov 2012, 2:56pm

      He’s not gay!

      1. Spanner1960 8 Nov 2012, 11:02am

        OK, so he’s not gay. Get over it.
        People that consider being called gay an insult are the ones with the problem.

  2. It’s not clear to me from the coverage that Mr Cowan is gay. He appears to be saying he is not. So truthfulness is not a defence here.

    As in numerous recent cases, the courts have found it is not defamatory to call someone gay, whether true or false.

    But perceived sexual orientation is grounds for a discrimination complaint. Mr Cowan could sue the business club from which Mr Bennett had him ejected.

    The police may also wish to investigate a criminal charge of harassment on grounds of sexual orientation against whomever defaced the business cards.

    Overall, Mr Cowan appears to need a better lawyer.

    1. I should have said that the club can only be sued if it has 25 or more members, which may not be the case here. Small clubs are exempt from equality law.

    2. I thought the same thing. as it’s reported here, this is rather an arse-over-tit story: is this Mr. Cowen gay? If so, he’s a victim of homophobic bullying by this clearly homophobic Bennet. If he’s not gay, then Cowen took action because he thinks being called gay is actionable and something vile enough to take to court; which makes him the homophobe. Either way, the Bennet character’s homophobia is beyond question. If Cowan was black, could Bennet have got away with constantly referring to him as ‘that black painter’? No, obviously, because of the hierarchy of prejudice. And what ever else we try and puzzle out of this half-reported, badly told story, the Sherriff has has made it all worse by striking a blow for bigotry.

      1. Spanner1960 7 Nov 2012, 12:14pm

        “If Cowan was black, could Bennet have got away with constantly referring to him as ‘that black painter’? No, obviously.

        Why ‘obviously’? He is only making a statement of fact.
        There is no more malice or insult in calling somebody black than calling them gay. It all depends on the context; was it a descriptive term, or intended as an epithet?

        1. Spanner. Missing the point as usual. Although teh article is a little muddy it seems clear that the context was homophobic. Whether the painter is gay or not does not change the malice in Bennett’s campaign. Most surprising is the reaction from the judge. – “no reasonable person” witnessing the comments would believe Mr Bennett was “seriously” claiming Mr Cowan was gay.

          1. Spanner1960 8 Nov 2012, 11:04am

            Not missing the point at all.
            It all depends on whether you consider being called gay is an insult. Personally, I would just reply “yeah, and?..”

          2. Don’t be silly. Of course “gay” is not an insult in itself. Neither is disabled, black, Asian etc. As I said, the context in which the word was repeatedly used seems to be an attempt to ridicule him.

  3. While not condoning the jibe, allowing this ill-advised claim of defamation would have set a very dangerous precedent.

    Whether the accusation is correct or not, being called gay is no more defamatory than being called left-handed.

    Similarly, you can’t seek to be equal and then claim that being called gay is defamatory.

    The painter should have totally ignored his former friend and just moved on.

    1. Spanner1960 7 Nov 2012, 12:16pm

      I totally agree.
      LGBT people cannot have their cake and eat it.
      Either we are out, gay and proud, or we stay in the closet and sue people that call us names. We can’t have both.

      1. Suddenly Last Bummer 7 Nov 2012, 8:17pm

        Have their cock and eat it more like.

  4. Dependent on the sexuality of the painter… If he is, then it’s technically homophobic harassment, but only a minor public order act would be broken. If, however, he’s heterosexual then he’s claiming that being gay is a bad thing and a defamatory name to be called.

    As someone else stated: double edged sword.

    Also, if the guy had shouted at Mr Cowan, “get lost, gay painter” or something similar, it is homophobic harassment, but that’s not the case.

    What an odd publication.

  5. In a written judgement, Sheriff Kenneth McGowan said he was satisfied “no reasonable person” witnessing the comments would believe Mr Bennett was “seriously” claiming Mr Cowan was gay.

    He added Mr Cowan appeared to show signs of “discomfort, if not humiliation” at the “continued attentions”.

    (BBC News website)

  6. barriejohn 7 Nov 2012, 3:01pm

    He’s not gay, folks. Bennett sounds like a complete arsehole. If this had been me I would have been pretty pissed off about it as well!

    1. Spanner1960 8 Nov 2012, 11:07am

      Why? If you are gay, then it’s a statement of fact; if you are straight, then if you considered the term insulting, then it’s you that has the problem.

  7. brown fingered fiddler 7 Nov 2012, 11:03pm

    I think he should have won. Calling someone gay certainly is defamaton of character!

    1. Maybe we should ban the use of the word gay (Which many years ago meant happy) and go with the correct term of homosexual?

  8. people take people to court over such small reasons these days

    get a grip

  9. And even if he was gay, decent members of society do not think any less of you therefore claim = fail. The solicitor should have told him that these claims do not win on this side of the pond (Remember Jason Donovan?). I would have looked deeper into the content of the comments on the cards and pursued that rather then “hes telling people im gay and im not”

  10. This would have gone a lot better if they pursued HARASSMENT not DEFAMATION. This is first year UNDERGRADUATE law the solicitor needs to be sued for negligence!

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