The Associated Press again drew the ire of the LGBT community, including some journalists, this week when an internal guidance memo advised staff not to refer to same-sex married couples as “husband” or “wife,” but instead as couples or partners. (Would it be inappropriate to call this move homophobic?)
After initiating a discussion with the AP stylebook editor about the memo, NLGJA sent AP a letter today calling out the double standard and encouraging the news agency to revise the guidance to use the same terms for married individuals, regardless of sex.
The memo came to the attention of the NLGJA’s Rapid Response Task Force on Tuesday, after the memo was posted on several blogs.
The original memo, issued in the agency’s Style Watch on Feb. 11, stated, “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 marriage.”
The problematic guidance is the last sentence, which instructs reporters to refer to married individuals as partners or couples—not husband or wife. Considering reporters use husband and wife routinely to describe opposite-sex married couples, this creates a clear double standard.
While the AP guidance may be appropriate for same-sex couples in civil unions, which is a comparatively new institution without clearly established or universal terms, married is married.
Former NLGJA President David Steinberg contacted David Minthorn, the stylebook editor for AP, on Tuesday and explained how the language was problematic. And while AP issued revised guidance to the original memo, it still fell short.
The clarified AP guidance added, “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.”
While this is marginally better, it retains the earlier language regarding using couples and partners for married same-sex individuals.