The Immorality of Publicly Outing Private People

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Oregon Law Review


sexual orientation, outing, discrimination, gay community, lesbian


This Article focuses upon the morality of outing "private people." As used herein, "private people" means gay individuals who have chosen, for personal reasons, to remain closeted, and who have never advocated anti-gay actions. Accordingly, the target could be a national political figure, popular entertainer, soldier, teacher, or someone experiencing the fifteen minutes of fame which Andy Warhol predicted everyone would command once in a lifetime. The "outing" could also be initiated by a variety of people in a number of settings, from a news conference called by gay activists and reported by national media to an anonymous note slipped under a school principal's door identifying a teacher as gay. Outing has been thoroughly analyzed under the legal doctrines of defamation, invasion of privacy, private facts tort, and First Amendment principles; the consensus is that the target of outing is currently without recourse for his injuries. In this Article I analyze the act of outing, or more precisely, test the rationale offered by the outers for their actions, under models of morality. I conclude that outing is not a morally defensible tactic in the war on homophobia.


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