sopranos-logoWhen mobster turned informant Robert Mormando appeared in a Brooklyn court on October 19 for a hearing on his sentence for a botched hit, the last thing anyone expected to hear was the defendant out himself as a gay man.

Mormando already had pleaded guilty for taking part in the shooting of a Queens bagel store owner in 2003. The baker survived. Vincent Gotti, the younger brother of the late John Gotti, allegedly ordered the hit because he believed the baker was having an affair with his wife, reports the Daily News.

According to The New York Times, Mormando came out mostly to influence the judge to give him a lower sentence by demonstrating the difficulty of his circumstances. Apparently it worked, because the News reports that the judge sentenced Mormando only to time served. He faced up to 17 years in prison.

It’s no surprise that this story got coverage. As the Times article points out, Mormando was the inspiration for a gay character on The Sopranos. The Times article was doing a satisfactory job with the story until their use of a certain phrase:

Complicating matters is that Mr. Mormando had a close personal friendship with Richard G. Gotti, Mr. Gotti’s nephew, who is currently in prison on a federal racketeering charge. While there is no suggestion that the friendship was anything more than that, the mere fact that an avowed gay man was once “inseparable” from a Gotti is “an intolerable stain on their name,” said the person who has knowledge of the case.

There are no quotes around “avowed” so the phrase “avowed gay man” is how the Times writer, not the anonymous source, chose to describe Mormando. The Times substituted “gay man” for “homosexual” but to me it doesn’t make it any better.

The GLAAD media reference guide states the case against using the phrase:

Offensive: “admitted homosexual” or “avowed homosexual”
Preferred: “openly lesbian,” “openly gay,” “openly bisexual”
Dated term used to describe those who are openly lesbian, gay or bisexual or who have recently come out of the closet. The words “admitted” or “avowed” suggest that being gay is somehow shameful or inherently secretive. Avoid the use of the word “homosexual” in any case.

The News also was doing a satisfactory job with the story until the appearance near the end of their story of another phrase:

Members of the Mafia do not accept a gay lifestyle within its ranks although there is no specific rule that inductees must accept, like the prohibition from having an affair with another gangster’s wife.

Both the GLAAD media reference guide and the NLGJA stylebook make it absolutely clear that using the phrase “gay lifestyle” is a big no-no. It never ceases to amaze and anger me when mainstream media uses “gay lifestyle” to describe our lives.