AP Bans Use of Words “Husband,” “Wife” for Legally-Wed Gay Couples

February 19, 2013

By John Aravosis via America Blog

UPDATE: There appears to be open dissension at the Associated Press (AP) over the media entity’s new policy, announced yesterday, not to necessarily refer to legally-wed gay couples in the same way they refer to legally-wed straight ones. A lead AP reporter covering LGBT issues, David Crary, has said that he won’t follow the new policy.
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Shortly after an internal AP memo banning the use of the words “husband” and “wife” for legally-wed gay couples was leaked, AP changed its story – they think they fixed the problem.  They most certainly did not.  AP even tweeted me that it’s fixed:

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But it’s not fixed at all.

Now AP has a ban on the terms husband and wife for gay couples unless the couples use the term about themselves.  Is that AP’s standard for straight couples too?  Only call straight people husband and wife if the couple calls themselves husband and wife?  I doubt it.

From AP’s memo:

SAME-SEX COUPLES: We were asked how to report about same-sex couples who call themselves “husband” and “wife.” Our view is that such terms may be used in AP content if those involved have regularly used those terms (“Smith is survived by his husband, John Jones”) or in quotes attributed to them. Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.

That, my friends, is still a ban.  Why does it matter if gay people uses the terms husband and wife to define their legal marriage if AP doesn’t have the same standard for straight couples – AP doesn’t say if the couple is straight they’ll only call them husband and wife if “those involved have regularly used those terms.”  So why the different standard for legal gay marriages?  Because AP doesn’t think gay marriages are legit, and certainly not equal to straight marriages.

WTF does “those involved” mean?  It’s a marriage.  It’s not an involvement. It’s almost as if AP is squeamish, or somehow, uncomfortable with the notion that a man might marry another man, even though it’s now legal in many states and countries.  So they keep searching for euphemisms.

And what about this:

Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.

So clearly AP is admitting that it has a different standard for legally-wed gay couples than it has for legally-wed straight couples.  What possible reason does AP have?  Marriage is not a federal issue, it’s a state issue – states decide who is married.  The feds can say they’re not going to give benefits, but they don’t overrule the state’s marriage – gays are still married in those states, just as straight people arte.  Who is AP to say they don’t agree with the states’ legal determination as to who is married?

AP is overruling the 9 states and the District of Columbia that have legal marriages for gay couples. AP says no.  They’re not really marriages.

And what about foreign marriages?  Same-sex couples can marry in a growing number of countries now. AP has also decided that they’re not really married either.

What business is it of the Associated Press to determine that it doesn’t believe legally wed gay couples, in the US or abroad, are actually legally wed?

Does the AP now think DOMA applies to it too?

It was one thing for the AP to recently ban the use of the word “homophobia.”  I was agnostic on that one (though I’m starting to reconsider whether that too was motivated by anti-gay animus – it sure is suspicious that suddenly AP is on a gay-banning bandwagon).  But for the AP to officially decide that it doesn’t consider gay men and women legally married, when they are, is abominable, biased, and yellow journalism.

It isn’t the Associated Press’ job to overrule the courts and legislatures in 9 American states, and numerous foreign countries.  Last time I checked, it’s states that determine who is legally married in America, not the Associated Press.

As one reader put it:

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UPDATE: Gay media monitoring group GLAAD has now weighed in, pretty much agreeing with our, and others’, analysis:

The third sentence is where the AP has received the most criticism. [AP's third sentence: "Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages."] The words “partner” and “couple” are technically and legally accurate to describe same-sex couples who are in Civil Unions, and this already states that AP will call those couples husbands and/or wives if they refer to themselves as such. But those terms are absolutely not appropriate to describe same-sex couples who are married, and this sentence seems to be saying that AP actually prefers them. This sentence, if taken literally as written, implies a value judgement on the part of AP — that same-sex marriages “generally” need vocabulary that differentiates them from opposite-sex marriages, and that said vocabulary should consist of words that also apply to unmarried couples. …

UPDATE: Here’s Romanesko’s piece that seems to be quasi-missing from his site at the moment:

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 2.16.30 PM

Photo: Henning Bulka

One Comment

  1. artist

    February 19, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    What happened to “spouse” ? Hello? hello?
    I object to “partner” because if I say “my partner” so-and-so, who knows whether I’m referring to a spouse, a business partner, a close friend or what.
    As for unmarried cohabiting couples, no matter the genders, we’ve always had the question of how to refer to our other half. Life-mate? Soul-mate? Boy/ girlfriend?
    ‘Partner’ never worked for me, frankly. Its use shows lazy thinking resulting in unnecessary ambiguity.
    Let’s dump “partner” and go with spouse for married, and for unmarried, go with lifemate or mate for short. “Mate” will be confusing in the British Isles but let them sort that or come up with their own. At least it clearly refers to an affectionate relationship.
    English has the world’s biggest vocabulary. In some deep depths of the dictionary we probably have a word (stolen from another language) that means precisely co-habiting with the love of ones life.

    And while we’re at it, why should we assume that espoused or co-habiting couples of the same gender are having sex?
    Legal marriage is a legal construct whose language does not mention sexual relations. I assume that although I’m heterosexual in my tastes, I could marry my best same-sex friend for legal or tax purposes or emotional or financial security, just as heterosexual or heterosexual-homosexual marriages have long included those based on monetary concerns, social standing, or other convenience or strategy.

    We should not assume that same-sex married couples are homosexual or that different-gender couples are heterosexual because we should not make any assumptions about other folk’s marital arrangements. Couples should be able to decide what they want to reveal about their marital arrangements.The sexlife of anyone is otherwise nobody else’s business.
    Spouse is neutral, free of the shopworn longstanding notions that come with the the word “husband” and the word “wife.”

    Incidentally LBGT is stupid too. It sounds like a Wall Street stock offering. Nobody not “with it” would know who the hell was being refered to. Spell it out or think up something else.