equal rites

AP Usually Reserves Husband and Wife for Straight Marriage

Two women embrace after getting married at city hall in San Francisco, California.
Photo: Kimberly White/Corbis

Associated Press staffers were reminded by their standards editors today that the terms husband and wife are typically used for heterosexual unions only, except in certain instances: “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,” reads a new memo obtained by Romenesko. “Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.” 

It’s unclear what confusion, if any, such differentiation is meant to avoid, or what purpose it would serve otherwise, considering acceptance for gay marriage (both legal and cultural) is only moving in one direction. Rather, it just seems like another outdated — and inexact — distinction that will have to be rectified at some point in the not-so-distant future. Whether or not members of a couple refer to one another as such in words, a man legally married to another man is his “husband.”

This was, as far as we intended, a restatement of our style via a staff memo,” an AP spokesperson told Daily Intelligencer. “The focus was on letting people call themselves what they feel is right.”

Meanwhile, the AP recently scrapped use of homophobia because, “It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case,” according to AP Deputy standards editor David Minthorn. “We want to be precise and accurate and neutral in our phrasing.” And the language war rages on.

AP Reserves Husband, Wife for Heterosexuals