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.
There appears to be open dissension at the Associated Press (AP) over the media entity’s new policy, announced yesterday, not to necessarily refer to legally-wed gay couples in the same way they refer to legally-wed straight ones.
AP said they would only use “husband” and “wife” to describe gay marriages in which the couples “regularly used” the terms themselves, whatever that means. AP does not have the same policy for straight marriages. And AP indicated that it preferred to treat gay marriages as civil unions, not as real straight marriages, even though they’re legally the same thing. Here is AP’s new policy:
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.
In response, New York-based AP reporter David Crary, who writes about gay and trans issues for the media company, just told journalist Rex Wockner by email, on the record:
The AP style guidance will have no effect on how I write about legally married same-sex couples. I will continue to depict them on equal terms, linguistically and otherwise, with heterosexual married couples, with no hesitation about using husband and wife in the cases where that’s the appropriate term.
Crary’s response means one of two things. Either there is open revolt at the AP over the new policy, or AP management decided to throw irate civil rights advocates a bone by claiming that while the policy will remain, it won’t really be implemented (which is bs). Either way, the policy is still on the books, and this controversy will continue to grow. But if this is truly sign of dissension in the ranks at AP, that’s good news, not just for gay people, but for journalism overall.