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.
Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed reports a delicious story of a gay man who has contacted the Associated Press to let them know that if they ever decide to write a story about him and/or his husband, they would like AP to refer their husband as “husband.”
The man, Dr. Mark Bitgood, told Geidner that he’s doing this in response to AP’s policy of “generally” not referring to legally-wed gay people as “husband” or “wife,” but rather using the factually and legally incorrect, and confusing, term “partners.”
AP has said that its reporters should only use the terms “husband” or “wife” for legally-wed gay people under two very limited circumstances:
1. In a quote.
2. If the married couple in question has “regularly used” the terms “husband” or “wife” about themselves. (No such test exists for AP’s treatment of the legal marriages of straight couples, perhaps because their marriages aren’t icky.)
The problem, of course, is how you define both “regular” and “use.” And worse yet, how do you prove it? Do gay couples need to keep Nixonian-style tape recorders running in secret in their homes all the time to catch them using the term “oh husband!” while they plot the demise of traditional marriage? And even that proof is suspect, as the gay couple in question “knew” the recorders were there, so maybe they faked the evidence, just in case one day AP might write a story about them.
It’s all so confusing. It’s a wonder AP can figure out what to call straight people when they’re married. If only the English language had a term for a man who is legally married, and for a woman who is legally married.
But since the Associated Press is now interested in determining exactly how every single married gay person who might be in one of their stories “regularly” refers to themselves or their spouse in private, on a case-by-case basis, Dr. Bitgood thought he’d get ahead of the game and contact AP directly, just to let them know his preference in advance. Here’s Geidner:
After hearing about the AP guidance, though, Bitwood asked his friend, David Steinberg — the copy desk chief at the San Francisco Chronicle and former president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association — a question on Facebook.
“You don’t, by chance, know of a person at the AP whom I and perhaps others might contact with our preference as to the designation of our spouses — you know, for their records? Just in case?” he asked. “I’m sure that lots of people would love to update their status with the AP.”
Geidner reports that Bitgood went on to send Kent and Minthorn emails letting them know that he and his husband would prefer to be referred to as “husband.”
If only the rest of us had a way of contacting the Associated Press and letting them know what term we’d like them to use if they ever write a story about us, our husbands, or our wives.