John Aravosis has provided significant coverage of the recent Associated Press style guidelines related to married lesbian and gay couples. From AmericaBlogGay:
Here is APâ€™s complete, recently-leaked, style guideline on how to refer to the marriage of gay people â€” note that this guideline specifically targets legal weddings of gay people. It does not apply to legal weddings of straight people â€” only gay people. …:
â€˜SAME-SEX COUPLES: We were asked how to report about same-sex couples who call themselves â€˜husbandâ€™ and â€˜wife.â€™ Our view is that such terms may be used in AP content if those involved have regularly used those terms (â€˜Smith is survived by his husband, John Jonesâ€™) or in quotes attributed to them. Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.â€™
Among others, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association responded. From NLGJA president Jen Christensen, to David Minthorn, APâ€™s stylebook editor:
Weâ€™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: â€˜Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.â€™
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 â€˜couplesâ€™ or â€˜partnersâ€™ 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, â€œLanguage choices like these have an impact.â€ As one popular phrase puts it, â€œItâ€™s marriage. Not â€˜gayâ€™ marriage.â€
At Buzzfeed, Chris Geidner observes that in spite of criticism, including some internal, AP is â€œholding firm.â€
AP spokesman Paul Colford told BuzzFeed …, â€˜This weekâ€™s style guidance reaffirmed APâ€™s existing practice. Weâ€™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.â€™
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 couplesâ€™ marriages like civil unions â€“ and not like opposite-sex couplesâ€™ marriages â€“ has sparked questioning responses from some of APâ€™s own reporters and calls for a change from LGBT organizations and activists.
From another post by Aravosis: (bold in original)
The AP doesnâ€™t refuse to call heterosexuals â€˜husbandâ€™ or â€˜wifeâ€™ unless and until they can prove that theyâ€™ve â€˜regularly usedâ€™ 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 â€œmistakeâ€ in the NLGJA letter, and elsewhere.
It was suggesting that the problem with APâ€™s â€˜gay marriageâ€™ guideline is the last sentence of the guideline (â€˜Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.â€™). It is not enough for AP to delete the last sentence. The guideline, overall, establishes a threshold for when AP will use the terms â€˜husbandâ€™ or â€˜wifeâ€™ 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 itâ€™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 â€œfollowingâ€ crowd AP plans to remain.
(Marriage Not Gay Marriage Via WipeOutHomophobiaOnFB)