John Aravosis has provided significant coverage of the recent Associated Press style guidelines related to married lesbian and gay couples. From AmericaBlogGay:
Here is AP’s complete, recently-leaked, style guideline on how to refer to the marriage of gay people — note that this guideline specifically targets legal weddings of gay people. It does not apply to legal weddings of straight people — only gay people. …:
‘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.’
Among others, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association responded. From NLGJA president Jen Christensen, to David Minthorn, AP’s stylebook editor:
We’re writing to you today as fellow journalists, and as members of the LGBT communities to offer some advice on how to best reference same-sex married people in news reports. …
What is troubling is the final sentence in the memo: ‘Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.’
Such guidance may be appropriate for referring to people in civil unions, for which there are no established terms and the language is still evolving, but it suggests a double standard for same-sex individuals in legally recognized marriages. One has to assume that AP would never suggest that the default term should be ‘couples’ or ‘partners’ when describing people in opposite-sex marriages. We strongly encourage you to revise the style advisory to make it clear that writers should use the same terms for married individuals, whether they are in a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage.
As the NLGJA letter notes, “Language choices like these have an impact.” As one popular phrase puts it, “It’s marriage. Not ‘gay’ marriage.”
At Buzzfeed, Chris Geidner observes that in spite of criticism, including some internal, AP is “holding firm.”
AP spokesman Paul Colford told BuzzFeed …, ‘This week’s style guidance reaffirmed AP’s existing practice. We’ve used husband and wife in the past for same-sex married couples and have made clear that reporters can continue to do so going forward.’
When covering same-sex couples who have waited decades in some cases for that marriage license, however, the idea that the AP would treat those couples’ marriages like civil unions – and not like opposite-sex couples’ marriages – has sparked questioning responses from some of AP’s own reporters and calls for a change from LGBT organizations and activists.
From another post by Aravosis: (bold in original)
The AP doesn’t refuse to call heterosexuals ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ unless and until they can prove that they’ve ‘regularly used’ the terms themselves. So why is there a different standard at AP for legal marriages of gay people?
Aravosis, who is an attorney, points out from that perspective what he says as a “mistake” in the NLGJA letter, and elsewhere.
It was suggesting that the problem with AP’s ‘gay marriage’ guideline is the last sentence of the guideline (‘Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.’). It is not enough for AP to delete the last sentence. The guideline, overall, establishes a threshold for when AP will use the terms ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ for legally-wed gay couples, but does not apply the same standard, the same threshold, the same policy to legally-wed heterosexual couples. Having two different policies for the same thing is, on its face, discriminatory, not to mention factually incorrect.
Zack Ford, at Think Progress, has this conclusion:
AP has clearly just gotten this wrong. As is the expected practice for professional journalists, it should print a retraction for the inaccurate guidance and correct the mistake.
To me, the AP decision seems yet another example of a middle of the road, play it safe, cautious incrementalism kind of thinking. Or as it’s sometimes termed, pragmatism. You do more following than leading, but there is some progress made. In this case, I do wonder how far back in the “following” crowd AP plans to remain.
(Marriage Not Gay Marriage Via WipeOutHomophobiaOnFB)