Gay journalists call out AP for saying gay marriages aren’t real

UPDATE: VICTORY! AP has corrected its error, and created a new styleguide entry recognizing that the legal marriages of gay couples are just as much “marriages” as legal marriages of straight couples.
_______________

UPDATE: AP, in a statement last night, is now outright lying about its separate-but-equal policy towards the marriages of gay couples.

__________

The Associated Press insists that, in spite of courts, legislatures, and even voters (in some cases) legalizing same-sex unions in nine US states and the District of Columbia, the media organization still does not consider such marriages to be equal to heterosexual marriages.

In fact, the marriages of gay couples are not only equal to the marriages of straight couples in those states – they are in fact the exact same thing. They are “marriages.” Period.

Too bad, says AP, in a style guidance leaked earlier this week:

“Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.”

But why?

Why would AP use the same term for gay couples in a civil union as they do for gay couples in a legal marriage? That’s simply bizarre. Does AP use the same term for straight couples in a civil union as it does for straight couples in a marriage?

No.

It’s only for gays that the AP has decided to use different terminology for defining the people in that marriage. And the only reason, the obvious reason, is that the AP doesn’t think gay marriages are “real” marriages.  What other reason can their be for refusing to have the same policy the marriages of gay couples as it has for the marriages of straight couples?

gay marriage wedding cake

Gay marriage via Shutterstock

Of course, it’s completely irrelevant if the AP doesn’t like or respect the legal marriages of gay people. That fact does not change the validity of said marriages. You are either married or you are not. And never in history has the validity of one’s marriage depended on the comfort level of a journalist. At least not in a free country. So why has the Associated Press decided to overturn the courts, legislatures, and/or voters in nine states and DC and wipe out the marriages of gay couples across the country?

Now, AP will argue that they’re doing no such thing. But the fact remains that the AP has a policy in place that calls for using different terminology, and different standards, when dealing with the legal marriages of gay couples as it does when dealing with the legal marriages of straight couples. And they simply cannot explain why.

Here is AP’s complete, recently-leaked, style guideline on how to refer to the marriage of gay people – note that this guideline specifically targets legal weddings of gay people.  It does not apply to legal weddings of straight people – only gay people.  This was leaked earlier this week:

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.

AP should have one policy: Married people are married, unmarried people are not. And if you’re married and a guy, you’re a husband. And if you’re a woman, you’re a wife. Period.

But to suggest, as AP has, that they will only use “husband” or “wife” to describe a gay person in a marriage if it’s in quotes, or if, and only if, the couple has “regularly used” those terms, is again, bizarre. No such rule exists for straight married couples. The AP doesn’t refuse to call heterosexuals “husband” or “wife” unless and until they can prove that they’ve “regularly used” the terms themselves. So why is there a different standard at AP for legal marriages of gay people?

Yesterday the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association, made up of many of the top journalists in the country, sent a letter to AP admonishing them over this.

NLGJA did make one mistake in their letter, and it’s a mistake a few other observers have made (the problem with being a journalist and not a lawyer). It was suggesting that the problem with AP’s “gay marriage” guideline is the last sentence of the guideline (“Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.”).  It is not enough for AP to delete the last sentence. The guideline, overall, establishes a threshold for when AP will use the terms “husband” or “wife” for legally-wed gay couples, but does not apply the same standard, the same threshold, the same policy to legally-wed heterosexual couples.  Having two different policies for the same thing is, on its face, discriminatory, not to mention factually incorrect.

It is one thing for the Associated Press, or anyone else, to say that they won’t treat civil unions the same as marriage.  I can respect that as civil unions aren’t marriages.  But when the AP tries to argue that marriages aren’t marriages, those are fighting words.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

Share This Post

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Never mind, it was a bad joke most people wouldn’t get.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    But this isn’t about “unwed couples”; it’s about legally married couples.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    You may very well have been “referring to NON-MARITAL forms of heterosexual partnership”, but this article is about how AP refers to legally married same-gender couples.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    Though all three types of ‘unions’ are “mention[ed]“, the article is ABOUT how AP treats legally married spouses.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    In what universe does a Dometic Partnership have “three people”? Generally?

  • to_tell_the_truth

    I don’t know. Is there one for someone who writes an article on an injustice and then doesn’t think it’s important for readers to actually take action.

  • http://twitter.com/janthewordnerd Jan

    This is correct. AP would not permit reference to a longtime unwed couple as “married,” even if they were eligible for some state-level or employer-offered benefits.

  • http://twitter.com/janthewordnerd Jan

    I can assure everyone here that emails to the AP will go unread. They don’t even accept input from working journalists whose product is most closely impacted by their decisions.

  • http://twitter.com/janthewordnerd Jan

    At first I defended AP in this because of the lack of universal acknowledgement and conferral of legal marriage status around the nation. But then I thought back to my own reporting days .. when sources referred to their “wife” or “husband,” or that they had been “married” for (x-number of years), it never dawned on me to ask for a certificate.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Scroll down and you’ll see the post, replying to the one John replied to, but earlier in time.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Um, I think there’s generally three people in a DP.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    (nm, double post)

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Is there an Internet term for someone who comes to a discussion board thread late and proceeds to respond to nearly every post in order?

  • Stephen Clark

    I was referring to NON-MARITAL forms of heterosexual partnership. Many other countries have them and a few states do. But no American state has been willing to recognize one of them yet, and there have been about a dozen court cases on it. No, the states have NOT been willing to recognize them as marriages. Not once so far.

  • Stev84

    It’s about both. The policy mentions civil unions too.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    Um, this isn’t ABOUT people “in a DP or CU”; it’s about legally married couples.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    Re: ” A heterosexual marriage (barring medical defects) is capable of producing children who are the biological offspring of the married couple.”

    If procreation were a requirement of marriage (for ANYONE), then you’d have a relevant point.

    It isn’t and you don’t.

    Please don’t derail the struggle for equal civil rights by making ludicrous statements that fail the simplest of common sense tests.

    You sure chose an odd way of expressing your claim of “support”.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    No one can “require” AP (or any other organization) to use any terminology.
    Our point is that it’s stupid for them not to use CORRECT terminology when referring to legal husbands and legal wives.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    This isn’t about States’ recognition; it’s about AP’s NON-recognition of perfectly legal marriages.

    Re: “every state that has been asked to recognize an out-of-state (usually foreign) legal partnership between heterosexuals has so far refused to do so.”
    Blarney. Both “out-of-state” AND “foreign” legal partnership[s] between heterosexuals ARE recognized by ALL states – because they are all called MARRIAGES if they’re “legal” partnerships. Even Elizabeth Taylor had a couple of them.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    Who the heck is “Sweetie” and what the heck did s/he say and where did s/he say it?

  • to_tell_the_truth

    Flippant responses do NOT help.
    I’ve already sent my letter to AP objecting to (and urging them to change) this nonsensical policy, no thanks to YOU, John.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    Thanks prof. Sad to see Mr. Aravosis couldn’t supply this siimple link.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    We’re not looking to convince YOU, John. We want to change AP’s “mind”.

    As for this being “a legal question”, you failed to explain HOW it is that. You said yourself, ” But the fact remains that the AP has a policy in place that calls for using different terminology, and different standards, when dealing with the legal marriages of gay couples as it does when dealing with the legal marriages of straight couples. And they simply cannot explain why.”

    We are legally married. Other reporters and commentators “weighing in” HERE won’t show up on any tally sheet at AP, now, will they?
    Sheesh!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “I realize you are new to gay activism and you are excused for your naivete.” ROTFL, where in the hell have you been Rip Van Troll? Sometimes I wear Sneakers, sometimes I wear Tennies, But they are STILL gymn shoes. So there, smarty pants.

  • FLL

    Marriage is a legal construct, just as incorporation is a legal construct. You’re confusing a legal construct with the life histories of the people involved. I will take the Republican obsession with treating corporations as people and make some good use out of it. One company’s contract of incorporation is exactly the same as another company’s. The fact that one company’s product history is radically different from another company’s does not change the fact that their legal status of incorporation is the same.

  • Skeptical Cicada

    LMAO! Trying to glue bigotry and equality together and imagining himself some imperious authority on gay rights. What a fucking nutcase!

    Hey, loon, go hang out at infertility websites and smugly lecture those folks about how all their marriages are frauds because they can’t conceive. One in seven straight couples suffer from infertility. There are more infertile straight couples “contaminating” your caricature of marriage than all the gay couples combined.

  • Stev84

    So infertile people who adopt aren’t really married. Thanks for clearing that up.

  • Stev84

    Limited readership? This is one the largest two news agencies in the world with thousands of other papers and TV stations using their material. Their style guide is something of an industry standard.

  • Pro Forma

    Why didn’t you take your own advice?

  • Moderator3

    Well, continue trying.

  • benb

    Give me a f*cking break. My husband and I have a medical defect and we can’t have children. The defect is that both of us have XY chromosomes. It’s a medical condition that makes us infertile. We didn’t choose it…it’s the way we were born.

  • unclemike

    By your definition, EVERYbody’s marriage is different from everybody else’s. My parents had two kids, but our neighbors had three. My neighbor’s mom was a housewife, my mom worked. TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS.

  • EndlessRepetition

    This has nothing to do with any claims made against us nor any other rational concept. Hate can be hard-wired just like attraction. Mother nature is cruel, heartless and measures her children by only only test – survival.

  • EndlessRepetition

    Don’t take him seriously. Victoriousreality’s post was a bad joke at best.

  • EndlessRepetition

    Nice try but still a clear attempt to troll. I’m afraid that you do not set the standard for what critical elements define a marriage nor are you in any position to state the goals of the gay rights struggle. Your post was entertaining but, much like a knock-knock joke, ultimately pointless.

  • GDW

    This past December 9th after a 25 year engagement (imposed by the government), our minister asked if I took this man to be my Husband. The homophobes (yes) at the AP will have to tear the term out of my cold dead hands.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Wow, um.. No. Marriage is a formal declaration of love between two people. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. No “biological offspring” clause, no “barring medical defects” exception (seriously??).

    That’s only one of many things wrong w/ your post.

  • victoriousreality

    “marriages of gay couples are not only equal to the marriages of straight couples in those states – they are in fact the exact same thing”

    John — FALSE. FALSE. FALSE. (And before you freak out — I support gay marriage).

    A same-sex marriage is NOT the exact same thing. It is a marriage of two people of the same sex. A heterosexual marriage is a marriage of two people of different sexes. A heterosexual marriage (barring medical defects) is capable of producing children who are the biological offspring of the married couple. A same-sex marriage is NEVER capable, in and of itself, of producing marriage. There is always a third person involved and the child in a gay marriage is the biological offspring of only ONE person of the married couple. So, a gay marriage could be legally the exact same thing but in reality it is NEVER the exact same thing. It can never be the same thing.

    Any claim that gay marriages are exactly the same is just a transparently desperate attempt to use government approval to assign validity to a human relationship that has unfortunately been viewed as wrong for much of human history.

    Please don’t derail the struggle for equal civil rights by making ludicrous statements that fail the simplest of common sense tests. You would do well to study the history of the gay rights struggle in America, and what the realistic goals are before making silly, uninformed statement. The goal is diversity — have gay marriages (which are inherently different than straight marriages) be accepted. The goal is NOT, and can NOT be, to foolishly try to convince people that a gay marriage IS a straight marriage. I realize you are new to gay activism and you are excused for your naivete — but please do some thinking! (And maybe some reading up on linguistic semantics. In other words, do your homework before joining the cause).

  • Stephen Clark

    John, I assume you’ll keep in mind the problem of couples whose home states do not recognize their out-of-state marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. Of course, that problem is not limited to same-sex couples, as not all opposite-sex marriages are recognized. So far, every state that has been asked to recognize an out-of-state heterosexual legal partnership has also refused to do so.

    My own view is that non-recognition by any given state should not affect the labels used to describe the parties, but, if relevant to the story, a reporter should not that it is a relationship that the particular state (or federal government) does not recognize.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Correct. Though on Monday I’ll be discussing a matter for the courts :)

  • Indigo

    AP’s limited readership probably wants it that way and if AP persists in its ignorance it will fade away with the Pony Express and Saturday mail delivery. No problem. The obsolete belong in museums, but only the quality obsolete. The jury is still out on whether AP will make the cut.

  • pappyvet

    “Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the
    truth.”
    Benjamin Disraeli

    What we call ourselves and our walk with the divinity of love is nobody elses business. To claim that I cannot love,cannot hold close the heart of another because they have the same plumbing is insanity and poison to the core. The inability to accept that I have the ability to love,to desire a oneness with another human being is to limit and cage the entire concept of the single most wonderful part of humanity that exists.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Oh I guess you’re saying “legal question” not that it’s a matter for the courts, but that it’s less a matter of opinion or style on the AP’s part than them simply adhering to a legal definition.

    I’m just glad to learn a new word before the weekend, “dispositive,” which I figured I should look up the second time you used it.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    What Sweetie said. Meaning the law is dispositive. Though ill be writing on Monday about how in fact this is a legal question, using your interpretation if what I meant by that phrase ;-)

  • SkippyFlipjack

    That doesn’t mean the AP is legally required to use certain terminology to refer to them. Even if there weren’t freedom of the press or using the term “ham sandwich” to describe the male or males in any relationship was somehow libelous, no one has yet showed an example of the AP having followed its guidelines and called a married couple “partners”, so it’s even less of a legal question than it might be.

    If it’s a legal question, who might have standing to sue, and for what?

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    It actually does work, though it takes a bit more than just that :-)

  • Sweetie

    Because marriage is marriage in the eyes of the law and reality. Marriages aren’t civil unions just because heterosexual supremacists want to see gay married people’s marriages that way.

  • nicho

    WaPo is one of the owners of the AP. And the publisher is on the Board of Directors of the AP.

  • UncleBucky

    Let’s do a Karl Rove on this one:

    “And if you’re married and a guy, you’re a husband. And if you’re a woman, you’re a wife. Period.”
    “And if you’re married and a guy, you’re a husband. And if you’re a woman, you’re a wife. Period.”
    “And if you’re married and a guy, you’re a husband. And if you’re a woman, you’re a wife. Period.”

    Over and over, since that is what they say works. Sobeit! ;o)

  • SkippyFlipjack

    How is this a legal question?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Hey, OCCUPY! Hello, Anonymous!

  • nicho

    And now for the good news, the Illinois Senate has passed a bill in favor of same-sex marriage.

    http://www.freedomtomarry.org/blog/entry/victory-in-illinois-il-senate-approves-the-freedom-to-marry

  • caphillprof
  • caphillprof

    I think this fight needs to be spread to the rags like the WaPo who print AP articles.

  • Stev84

    Actually, there is nothing wrong with the first part. Nothing prevents two people in a DP or CU from calling themselves husbands and wives unless its in a strict legal context. Doing so is not uncommon, especially outside the US where there are less hangups about the word “marriage”. Even two people without any legal recognition can have a ceremony and then call themselves husbands/wives. That guidance means that reporters can reflect that usage.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Legally-recognized or not, the marriages of same-sex couples by public a-religious vow or solemnized by a member of clergy belonging to any legally recognized church (such as the Unitarians) are also real marriages.

    Banning something or withholding legal recognition doesn’t negate the reality of its existence.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Oops, thanks, just corrected it.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I’m not convinced emails to AP count on this matter. This isn’t an issue of being the majority in our point of view, it’s a legal question, so I’d rather get more grasstops, as it were, other reporters, commentators, weighing in.

  • to_tell_the_truth

    How about supplying us with a link to AP where we can send our dissents?

  • jomicur

    Keep fighting the good fight, John. AP is dead wrong on this, and they won’t change until we force them to.

  • NCMan

    John,

    You have a little typo in this paragraph

    “Now, AP will argue that they’re doing no such thing. But the fact
    remains that the AP has a policy in place that calls for using different
    terminology, and different standards, when dealing with the legal
    marriages of gay couples as it does when dealing with the gay marriages
    of straight couples. And they simply cannot explain why.”

    you have the “gay marriages of straight couples” where you mean to say the “legal marriages of straight couples”.

© 2014 AMERICAblog News. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS