The AP Is Weird About When Gay Couples Can Be Called “Husband” Or “Wife”

The Associated Press has clarified their journalistic standards on reporting about same-sex couples and they have some weird rules about when to refer to a partner as a “husband or wife.” According to a memo from the AP’s standards editor, which was reprinted by Romenesko, they will only do it if the word “husband” or “wife” is from a quote. But if a gay couple is legally married, the AP still refers to them as “partners” or “couples” instead of “husbands” or “wives”.

To quote from the 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 stories with attribution. Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.

Fortunately, the AP quickly improved their guidelines for journalists, presumably in response to a negative reaction from marriage equality advocates. The media watchdog group Fairness In Accuracy & Reporting reports that the AP amended the memo. Now it reads that “such terms may be used in AP content if those involved have regularly used those terms … or in quotes attributed to them.”

While the updated memo is an improvement, both versions irk me. In their attempt to stay neutral to the issue, refusing to use common terminology used for straight couples AP is in effect saying that gay marriages are not equal. Gay or straight, if it is recognized by a court of law (in states where gay marriage is legal) couples were probably not pronounced “partners” or “couples” or “roommates” or “special friends.”  They were pronounced “husband and husband” and “wife and wife”



Contact the author of this post at [email protected]