Associated Press: 'Husband' and 'Wife' Are for Heterosexual Couples Only

From the Associated Press today, a bizarre memo that specifies the terms "husband" and "wife" are to be used to refer to heterosexual couples only. The initial memo, posted first by Romanesko Romenesko, reads:

From: AP Standards
Sent: Mon 2/11/2013 2:45 PM

STYLE WATCH

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.

Tom Kent
Dave Minthorn

Then later, the AP issued another memo intended to clarify the first, that does nothing of the sort:

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.

Gay marriage, in which people are pronounced husband and husband or wife and wife, is now legal in nine states in the U.S. In addition, same-sex marriages from other states are recognized in Rhode Island and California (sort of). Gay marriage is also legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden. Both the United Kingdom and France are on their way to legalization. But these legally-wedded couples are not to be called husbands or wives by the Associated Press.

Why does it matter? The Associated Press remains the leading authority worldwide on journalistic style. While most publications, including Gawker, deviate occasionally from the AP's ordained "proper" style, it does serve as a guide for nearly every word of journalism you'll read either online or in print. This particular style choice makes a jarring "separate but equal" standard for married couples. As we learned with segregation, a separate standard is inherently unequal.

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