News | NLGJA

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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Comments

  1. Some very odd, illogical comments here from our resident trolls. A married man is generally referred to as a "husband." The origin of the word was the Middle English huseband and Old Norse hūsbōndi, "a householder".

    No matter the gender of his spouse, a husband is a husband is a husband.

    Wife really just means "woman," since at that time women were NOT householders since they could not own property.

    It's a far bigger "re-definition" of those words that women are now equal partners in marriage, not merely property transferred from father to husband, than that a man can be a husband to another man.

    Logically and etymologically those arguments don't hold water.

    Posted by: Caliban | Feb 14, 2013 10:43:42 PM


  2. Alex, no-one cares sweetie. Two men who have married one another are husbands. Take your ass over to GOProud.

    Posted by: Francis | Feb 14, 2013 10:47:40 PM


  3. Everyone who isn't an idiot needs to email AP and ask about this recent change and intentional double standard. I've been on the fence about this but now I want answers. Continue putting the pressure on AP until they respond.

    Posted by: Francis | Feb 14, 2013 10:49:22 PM


  4. Gays didn't fight for marriage rights to now have others, notably fellow gays, tell them they shouldn't call their husbands a husband or adopt generic term like partner.

    Posted by: Griffin | Feb 14, 2013 11:00:18 PM


  5. Between Alex and Bruce (surely the same poster) I'm about at a loss for words. So much ignorance, so little time to address.

    Posted by: shortie | Feb 14, 2013 11:01:24 PM


  6. Alex seems like an AP plant. I mean who gets this worked up over MARRIED gay couples calling their spouse their wife or husband?

    Alex, you're either a NOM employee or very invested in this story. So foolish.

    Posted by: Michael K. | Feb 14, 2013 11:04:12 PM


  7. Are people really arguing on here that a gay couple can't call each other husbands?

    Did someone really write earlier that two lesbians being wives is ridiculous?

    Towleroad comments section some days is no different than a conservative blogs comments section. Probably the same posters on both, actually.

    Posted by: Dalurker | Feb 14, 2013 11:06:49 PM


  8. I think that Alex is the same as a poster from Slate who comments under the name DR84 because he is posting the same nonsense there on this topic as he is here.

    Posted by: anonymous | Feb 14, 2013 11:20:44 PM


  9. I for one won't be satisfied until the AP adopts Towleroad's admirable policy of consistently labeling the younger male partner of a woman over 40 as "boytoy". Language choices have an impact. It gets better, except on sites like this.

    Posted by: Dean | Feb 14, 2013 11:27:11 PM


  10. I agree, Dean. Towleroad should use the gender-neutral term "gold-digger." Plus it's far more accurate in most cases.

    Posted by: Caliban | Feb 15, 2013 1:02:38 AM


  11. Husband and Husband. Wife and wife. his husband. her wife. Married.

    See that wasn't so hard.

    Ignorance is for the lazy.

    Posted by: Diego | Feb 15, 2013 1:24:01 AM


  12. This argument is reminiscent of the battles in the 70's over women vs ladies, or when to use and not use the honorific Ms. before a woman's name.

    The terms "husband" and "wife" have their origin in a time when marriage was an asymmetric institution. This was largely true in law until the 1970s, and much of the connotation of those terms still resides in the public consciousness. I remember working for a woman in the 1980s who once commented that she could really use a wife, meaning in effect a personal assistant whose function was to smooth out the arrangements of her life. To tie the two terms solely to gender ignores the other dimensions commonly understood to attach to the labels.

    Having live through the colored->Negro->Black->African-american evolution, I can't seriously object to changes in the words used to describe married persons. But (and you knew there'd be one), I think it would be better to follow the evolutionary path from policeman to law enforcement officer and use the term "spouse", which is symmetric, gender-free and legally correct to describe a participant in any marriage, except where the person referred to has chosen to use a different term.

    Posted by: Rich | Feb 15, 2013 2:53:57 AM


  13. The Australians have the perfect word. Mate. I love saing of my guy: "E's moy mate e is, and I lov im frum the botum of mi art." I do too.

    Then there are days when he's my husband, totally, When he's a big help around the house and workshop, Then the word "husband" is perfect because husbands take care of things, as in husbandry. A helpmate. Everyone needs that.

    Then there's a "pain in the ass" for a whole lot of other times. But that's another story (about which no pun can possibly be original).

    Posted by: UFFDA | Feb 15, 2013 5:25:46 AM


  14. I continuously fail to understand why so many people respond to people seeking attention with inflammatory comments. It's like name calling on a children's playground.

    Posted by: Paul R | Feb 15, 2013 5:26:09 AM


  15. I am married to a guy, and I refer to him as my partner. Period. Don't sweat the small things: you folks must never have been parents.

    Posted by: Don | Feb 15, 2013 7:19:19 AM


  16. The NLGJA absolutely nails it when they say "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". I hope AP will come to their senses and change these discriminatory new guidlines.

    Posted by: Peter M. | Feb 15, 2013 8:18:26 AM


  17. And the word "spouse," is used when? Generic descriptions of couples might remain just that, indicating the relationship as recognized.

    Posted by: Michael | Feb 15, 2013 8:36:48 AM


  18. None of you are right! The style guide is pointing out that using those terms are going to result in confusion if you do not elaborate on the couple and their established terminology. MORONS.

    Posted by: Fensox | Feb 15, 2013 11:42:46 AM


  19. "I am married to a guy, and I refer to him as my partner. Period. Don't sweat the small things: you folks must never have been parents."

    Okay. And my brother regers to the womsn he's with as his partner, too. And occasionally, my mom refers to my dad (her spouse) as her partner. That's fine for all of you.
    The problem here is not what you call your spouse, but that thr AP is uding this regressive policy of thinking threy need to change the rules for gay people. News articles often refer to unmarried hetero couples as partners ("Jolie's partner Brad Pitt") but the moment they marry thry become husband or wife ("Bush's wife Laura").
    To use the "not-necessarily-married" terminology for married people with same-sex spouses seems to suggest thst they're not "really" married.

    Imagine if they had tried to suggest in the '60s that same-race married couples are "married" but different-race couples are "special friends" unless the reporter is refrrencing an exact quote from them.
    Words matter and they shouldn't be inventing separatist word rules for gay people.

    Posted by: GregV | Feb 15, 2013 12:11:01 PM


  20. I can't believe all the spelling mistakes I make (hitting the letter next door) on little smart phone keyboard. They always become visible to me the moment I press "post."

    Posted by: GregV | Feb 15, 2013 12:15:30 PM


  21. What's troubling is the word "troubling".

    Call it what it is: bigotry.

    Posted by: Randy | Feb 15, 2013 4:21:40 PM


  22. @ Kevin

    I can't find where I have commented in this thread, but will allow that it's possible given the primitive format. Is your complaint that more than one person disagrees with you? How about refuting the post instead of whining about the poster?

    In another thread I said that I think calling each other "husband" is a bit precious, and that most of the gay men I know say "husband" in quotation marks, as if they aren't really comfortable with the word or the possible implication that calling their partner "husband" suggests that they are the wife, or role playing. Is this an unreasonable concern? Would you want to be seen as playing a role in your relationship? Or would you rather be seen as designated with a strong and equal term?

    Answer like an adult, if you can. The whining is tiresome.

    Posted by: David Hearne | Feb 15, 2013 9:30:01 PM


  23. @ Kevin

    I can't find where I have commented in this thread, but will allow that it's possible given the primitive format. Is your complaint that more than one person disagrees with you? How about refuting the post instead of whining about the poster?

    In another thread I said that I think calling each other "husband" is a bit precious, and that most of the gay men I know say "husband" in quotation marks, as if they aren't really comfortable with the word or the possible implication that calling their partner "husband" suggests that they are the wife, or role playing. Is this an unreasonable concern? Would you want to be seen as playing a role in your relationship? Or would you rather be seen as designated with a strong and equal term?

    Answer like an adult, if you can. The whining is tiresome.

    Posted by: David Hearne | Feb 15, 2013 9:30:03 PM


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