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NLGJA Pens Open Letter to AP, Finds Guidance on 'Husband' and 'Wife' Usage 'Troubling'

On Tuesday 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 published an open letter to the AP today, saying it finds the directive "troubling":

What is troubling is the final sentence in the memo: "Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages."

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 "couples" or "partners" 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.

Language choices like these have an impact. Such reporting can reinforce the idea that marriages between same-sex individuals are fundamentally different from marriages between a man and a woman.

Read the full letter HERE.

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  1. Alex,
    GTFO it. This isn't the 1980s anymore where gay people have this dire need to be seen as unique, and different and our own. This new generation, my new generation, don't feel the need to be gay identified even in our marriages, or rather I should say, especially in our marriages. There's nothing wrong with normalcy when it's applied to everyone else, and we seek to apply it to us. You want gays to be a side show freak act where we constantly highlight how we're different than heteros. Nope. That's not the new movement. The LGBT movement today says that being gay is not all that different from being straight, nor should it be treated differently. One human race. That's what my generation gets and wants to advance. You want to pigeon hole yourself, go for it, but you don't get a vote for the rest of us.

    Posted by: San Diego U | Feb 14, 2013 8:12:49 PM

  2. Two men can't be husbands? Two women can't be wives?

    This is the argument those demanding we call each other partners are saying?

    Is that so? Well, count me as another point on team husband + husband. Wife + wife.

    You fools, much like the Catholic Church, alienate peeps perfectly well by revealing your ignorance.

    Posted by: Carlos | Feb 14, 2013 8:14:54 PM

  3. You know what? F*** the F****** terminology, f*** the constricting system and overrated freakin' ceremony, I want my respect and rights. Can we worry about the semantics AFTER the Supreme Court case? Not every gay/lesbian married couple that casually and (gasp!) even accidentally refers to themselves as partners is self-loathing, secretly working for NOM or ignorant of the community. Is one of you going to them otherwise? Really? Can we all get a little perspective please?

    Posted by: Leo | Feb 14, 2013 8:14:59 PM

  4. Alex, the words are NOT being redefined. A man who is married is a husband. A woman who is married is a wife. No one is asking to change either of those definitions. Those definitions work just fine no matter what the gender of the person they are married to.

    You are claiming that the definition of husband is a man who is married to a woman. But, it is really just a man who is married.

    Posted by: anonymous | Feb 14, 2013 8:14:59 PM

  5. Who the hell saying two men and two women can't be husband and wife? Conservatives: Find a broom and get lost. Get.....!

    Posted by: Real Talk | Feb 14, 2013 8:15:54 PM

  6. @ Real Talk

    Well now we're getting into gender theory with the concept you just mentioned and the argument just got really complicated. I won't follow you in that direction, but have fun...

    Posted by: Leo | Feb 14, 2013 8:18:28 PM

  7. The same arguments being made against gay couples using husband/wife to refer to each other are the same exact arguments, down to the wording, the civil unions crowd uses to object gay couples being called married.

    Literally, the very exact arguments they are using in this case, are the arguments they used to state gay couples should be known as a civil union, straight couples should be married.

    This is not only too transparent, you almost feel like you're getting PUNK'D by them. Where's Ashton?

    Posted by: Amir | Feb 14, 2013 8:25:06 PM

  8. No. My *husband* and I went through great ordeals to be married in our state. To even be who we are was a journey, him having moved here from Asia me being from a conservative Lebanese background, and to find each other was another project, and to then join as one and attain marriage after years of intensive struggles and fighting for it in our state.......I owe him calling him my husband, and vice versa. We deserve that. And no one can take that away from us. No one.

    Posted by: korosh-n-KC | Feb 14, 2013 8:28:29 PM

  9. @Alex

    Heterosexuals already changed the definition of marriage years ago - daughters and property, etc.

    "Redefining words" is dangerous you say - um...they already did for their own damn institution.

    The fastest way to get our rights is to play along with the damn system rather than making marriage solely a religious institution and civil unions the secular/government right part of things for all couples, gay or straight (yeah...let's see how many millenia THAT would take)

    so yes, we aid them in "redefining marriage" just as they did THEMSELVES decades prior.

    I'll take my rights faster and with the consequences of a re-definition, thank you very much. Your comparison to the "that's so gay" insult at schools is a false equivalence.

    Posted by: Leo | Feb 14, 2013 8:29:43 PM

  10. @ koroosh n kc
    Beautiful! Well said! Well said my friend.

    Posted by: Steve-ATL | Feb 14, 2013 8:30:04 PM

  11. Alex,
    Language evolves. New words are added to the dictionary every year and meanings alter with time. Check out any etymology dictionary if you doubt this. It's not a dangerous practice; it's change.

    Posted by: JC | Feb 14, 2013 8:31:06 PM

  12. Korosh-N-KC:

    That perfectly summed it up, and framed this entire topic in a most poignant manner no poster before you could. He is your husband, you do have something special, and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Happy Valentines day to you two!

    Posted by: Duration & Convexity | Feb 14, 2013 8:31:45 PM

  13. Korosh and his husband for the win. You could have just done a mic drop after that.

    Posted by: SIOX | Feb 14, 2013 8:32:37 PM

  14. Meh. Maybe it's cuz I'm single, maybe it's cuz it's valentines day lol, but Korosh N KC, what you wrote really kinda touched me in a powerful way. You almost put your heart out on your text and I could sense it as a reader. In your few sentences, you made me understand why this whole thing means so much to some. the marriage, the rights, the semantics, the journey as u said. Being single and young makes me kind of forget how this does mean a lot to many, and that words do matter too.
    Here's to hoping I have what y'all do some day.

    Posted by: Classic cult cinema | Feb 14, 2013 8:37:59 PM

  15. So according to Alex/Brice/Rick: a same sex loving, committed, monogamous couple should refrain from calling themselves husband-husband or wife-wife because same sex couples are different, will always be different, and it's (quote) "ridiculous" and silly for same sex couples to want to use a word that has traditionally been used to describe heterosexual couples. Also, according to said poster, no matter how much we try, the words won't change because a man can never have a husband and a women a wife.

    Gee golly, all these rebuttals and drivel sounds mighty familiar? Now when was the last time I've heard them applied to?
    Goodness---hmmm----what was it now??

    Oh yeah!

    "Civil unions give you the same exact rights, but a marriage is and has always been a man and a women, and a same sex relationship will NEVER be a heterosexual relationship. Find your own words!"

    Posted by: Jenny | Feb 14, 2013 8:43:43 PM

  16. Alex,
    Who the hell do you think you are demanding to dictate what legally married grown adults call themselves? They are indeed husbands, and if they want to be called that, learn to respect that or learn to be exposed for the pompous tool you come off as.

    Posted by: cici | Feb 14, 2013 9:23:27 PM

  17. ClCl,

    You can yourself and your partner whatever you like. Just don't expect others to bow to your invented meanings.

    Posted by: Alex | Feb 14, 2013 9:35:28 PM

  18. Husband and wife are stricly defined as male and female respectively. Stop trying to change definitions.

    You're like a group of nasty personalities crystallized around the victimhood notion. Memo to definition-changers in the GLBT community: you're gonna sink.

    Posted by: Alex | Feb 14, 2013 9:37:19 PM

  19. While you're at it, you may as well call a pig a dog. How about calling a tiger a lion? What about a bee? Maybe you can call a bee a teapot?

    The lunacy of the definition-changers in the GLBT community needs to stop. Definitions belong to the dictionary. The dictionary owns these words.

    Posted by: Alex | Feb 14, 2013 9:40:59 PM

  20. Alex, what is it that you don't understand here? No one is claiming that a husband is not a man and a wife is not a woman.

    What is being said here that you refuse to understand is that two men who are legally married to each other are both each others' husbands. No one is saying that one of the men wants to be called a wife. It is a marriage of two husbands. And, a legally married lesbian couple is a marriage of two wives.

    Posted by: anonymous | Feb 14, 2013 9:42:46 PM

  21. Anonymous,

    You can't have a husband to a husband. You can't have a wife to a wife. Husband and wife are meant to go together. That is the basis of their definitions.

    Posted by: Alex | Feb 14, 2013 9:55:42 PM

  22. Alex, you are wrong. Look it up in the dictionary you keep referring to. The definition of a husband is a married man. It makes no reference to the gender of the person he is married to. The same with the definition of wife. It is a married woman no matter the gender of the person she is married to.

    Since same-sex marriage is legal in 9 states and DC, then it is absolutely true that a legal marriage can consist of two husbands or two wives. We all get that you don't approve of this. But, your approval isn't necessary. Your opinion on this matter is irrelevant. If you didn't believe that the sky is blue, it wouldn't turn the sky green. And, the fact that you don't approve of same-sex marriages doesn't stop them from existing. A marriage does not require a husband and a wife. Legal marriages consisting of two husbands or two wives do exist. Get over it.

    Posted by: anonymous | Feb 14, 2013 10:03:05 PM

  23. Anonymous,

    Sheer nonsense. When the definitions were written, married men were married to women only. Therefore, the definition can only apply thus.

    Posted by: Alex | Feb 14, 2013 10:06:07 PM

  24. @Alex: maybe you can argue that you can't have a wife to a wife in English, but what about in German, where (das) Weib is neuter? As becoming a wife seems to imply a change of gender, at least grammatical gender, this would not seem to be as much of a problem as it would affect both men and women equally: both der Mann and die Frau could become das Weib.

    Maybe some native German speakers can comment (and no, I'm not being serious with this "analysis", but simply illustrating how silly worrying about that sort of word usage is.)

    Posted by: Bill | Feb 14, 2013 10:07:42 PM

  25. @Bill, whether in English or German what is more shocking about Alex is his insistence that legal marriages of same-sex couples don't exist when they do. He seems to think that it requires his approval. LOLOLOLOL

    Posted by: anonymous | Feb 14, 2013 10:33:37 PM

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