A federal judge in Boston has refused to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought against comedian Bill Cosby by three women who say he sexually abused them decades ago. The ruling Friday is a legal blow to Cosby, who has been accused of sexual assault by dozens of women.

The women claim in their lawsuit that Cosby’s representatives damaged their reputations by denying their allegations in sometimes disparaging language.

Cosby’s lawyers had asked the judge to dismiss their suit, arguing that the remarks were personal opinions protected by the First Amendment and legal declarations made in his defense.