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GLAAD President Wants to Know 'What the Hell is Going On' at AP with Guidance on Gay Married Couples?

Last week we reported on new guidelines sent out by the Associated Press, indicating that the words "husband" and "wife" should only be used to describe married gay couples if the couples themselves describe themselves that way, or if someone uses the term in a quote.

ApThey wrote:

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.

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association subsequently published an open letter to the AP saying it found the guidance "troubling".

The AP then told Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner that it is holding firm:

AP spokesman Paul Colford told BuzzFeed Thursday evening, "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."

Now GLAAD is taking a tougher line on the AP, demanding a "solution that carries more weight":

Without official clarification in the AP Stylebook, many reporters and editors – including those not with the AP - could look to the above paragraph as guidance, and would therefore apply that harmful double-standard to same-sex couples who are married.

We are well past the point of needing clarification to that one section of that internal memo. We need a solution that carries more weight. The AP should codify, in the official AP Stylebook, what seems (in practice, if not in that paragraph) to already be its preferred terminology for same-sex married couples.

Said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick:

"The AP needs to quit obfuscating and delaying and must fix its style guidance now so that reporters describe people in same-sex marriages accurately. That the Associated Press has let this issue drag on for a week is completely perplexing. What the hell is going on over on West 33rd Street?"

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  1. Something really sweet and charming about hearing my uncle call his spouse his husband. I don't know what it is, but it does endear you to their relationship, and at least in our family, them referring to one another as married and husbands really helped with the normalcy of it all. Partner just made them seem a little too abstract for our family to accept. Husbands almost forces you to realize that's what they really are, and ultimately come to terms with it, as the older generations in our family did.

    Posted by: STR8 Ally | Feb 20, 2013 5:21:36 PM

  2. I found @Victor's comment very insightful. AP might just as well have said call same-sex spouses roommates. The double-standard and insult is even more obvious then. Their policy is typical goal-post shifting. We fight for rhe right to marry and be treated equally and when we win they say your marriage certificate isn't enough. The fact that you call each other husband or wife isn't enough. We won't recognize you as such unless you "have regularly used those terms." How many minutes does a straight couple have to be married before AP will call them husband and wife? And when does AP even bother to ask straight spouses if they call each other husband and wife?

    Posted by: JJ | Feb 20, 2013 6:00:42 PM

  3. I worked too hard, campaigned, fundraised, and being lebanse just being out alone took courage, but to marry the love of my life and now have to debate calling him my husband is ridiculous. He IS my husband, and if you got a problem with that, than you're no better than the westboro church in my book. Same sense of entitlement to tell me what my relationship is.

    Posted by: Jackson | Feb 20, 2013 6:35:45 PM

  4. I wonder who designated partners for same sex couples? Like was there an official memo from a leading organization that signed off on it? I only ask because of the MANY same sex couples, lesbians/bisexual and gay that I personally know, none call each other partners. Most make fun of the term partners, and have some amusing punchlines for it. It's not a universally accepted label for all or even most gay couples, so it is a bit awkward that we have to basically all carry it in so many various settings.

    Posted by: DaLurker | Feb 20, 2013 6:39:00 PM

  5. There's no confusing. Wife is wife, husband is husband. That's it. If the AP can't even get that simple thing right, why bother with anything else they write?

    Posted by: Randy | Feb 20, 2013 7:17:28 PM

  6. You can't argue in one sentence that marriage is important because words mean something and calling our marriages civil unions is unfair


    say "you know, we'll accept calling our married significant other a partner."

    It just makes no sense to me. Then why not settle for civil unions? If it's about differences, and different wording being subjected to gay couples then doesn't the argument that civil unions should suffice stand too?

    (mind you, I'm opposed to civil unions, for marriage equality, and believe same sex couples should own being married and calling themselves husbands and wives because I feel it strengthens the scenery of your bond. I really do. That's just me.)

    Posted by: TempleTempest | Feb 20, 2013 7:20:37 PM

  7. @Fensox:

    "Kelly's partner" is MORE ambiguous, not less so, than "Kelly's wife."

    Reading the latter, I know that we are referring to the woman to whom Kelly is married.
    Reading the former, I just know that Kelly is paired with someone who may be male or female and may be a marriage partner or a common-law partner or a business partner or a dance partner or a partner in a law firm or for a duet in a singing competition or in a bridge tournament, etc., etc.

    Whether Kelly is a male or female, if it's even relevant at all, would have to be mentioned in the article because just mentioning Kelly's "wife" or partner," or "husband" or "spouse" or "apartment" or "car," without a pronoun, we don't know Kelly's sex.

    Posted by: GregV | Feb 20, 2013 8:27:01 PM

  8. Exactly, GregV: It's a mystery to me why some people seem to think the AP policy adds greater clarity when it does just the opposite, since partner is both genderless and ambiguous because some partnerships are romantic,some are not, and the word reveals nothing about legal status. The default words--and the clearest ones--for married gay couples should be husband and wife, unless the couple uses a different term. (The same would apply to a married straight couple.) The AP, and some commenters on these threads have it backwards. And my husband agrees.

    Posted by: Ernie | Feb 20, 2013 8:45:44 PM

  9. I prefer sweet baboo.

    Posted by: Tone | Feb 20, 2013 9:44:58 PM

  10. I prefer sweet baboo.

    Posted by: Tone | Feb 20, 2013 9:45:00 PM

  11. I use to contribute to GlAAD and HRC and a couple of other gay organizations until I read in my local gay newspaper how fat the salaries of their Chief Executives are. Now I just contribute to my local LGBT Community Center where the staff work very hard and make modest salaries.

    Posted by: andrew | Feb 20, 2013 11:24:47 PM

  12. Kyle is correct. Further, the AP is encouraging and legitimizing bigotry. Even if we charitably read the statement as arguing for clarity, the bigotry is still inherent: Why should there be a need to clarify that a spouse is a same-sex spouse? When the sex of the spouse is relevant, it would be explicit anyway. But to make it standard protocol to always "clarify" when a spouse isn't opposite-sex is to always treat same-sex marriages as lesser unequal less-fully-human "marriages." I.e. always "clarifying" a same-sex marriage as not opposite-sex puts quotes around the marriage ("marriage" versus marriage).

    It reminds me of the now-resolved old dilemma of "Mrs." or "Miss." In a professional context, claiming that the "clarification" matters is at least improper. Likewise, any rule to always "clarify" a same-sex marriage as not opposite-sex is at least improper.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Feb 21, 2013 12:51:09 AM

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