Day 3 of AP’s ban on words “husband,” “wife” for legally-wed gays

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: A lead AP reporter, David Crary, seems to indicate that he will not follow AP’s new separate-but-equal edict on gay marriages.

I’d written two days ago about the Associated Press’ bizarre decision not to recognize the legally-performed marriages of gay couples in US states, and presumably foreign countries, where such same-sex marriages aren’t just legal, they’re simply “marriages.”

But not if you ask AP.  For reasons the august media entity has yet been able to verbalize, AP decided unilaterally two days ago that if two gay people get married legally, it’s not really the same thing as two straight people getting married, so the AP needs different rules about how to refer to gay people who are married.  I’d call the AP’s new policy “separate but equal,” but it’s not even equal.

A Happy Valentines middle-finger to gay people nationwide

The AP has decided to ban the use of the terms husband and wife to refer to legally-married gay men and women unless a certain set of conditions are met.  Mind you, AP has no conditions for when it recognizes the legal marriages of straight people.  Those conditions in which AP will use “husband” or “wife” for married gay people are:

1. If those husbands and wives in question “have regularly used those terms.”  Why?  People aren’t husband and wife if they don’t regularly the term husband and wife, but they are if they do?  And is this AP’s rule for legally-married straight people too? No, or AP would have said that their rule applies to “marriages” period, and they didn’t.  And what does “regularly used” mean? Is AP going to quiz their friends, and anyone has called their spouse their “wife” ten times in the past week will be called husband or wife, but if you only used the term 9 times, you’re just bosom buddies?

2. AP will use the terms in quotes if the gay husband or wife uses the term in a quote.  In other words, AP won’t really be endorsing the usage, they’re just quoting those crazy fringe gay people using them, so the reader won’t be confused as to think the gay couple is legally married, even though it is.

Dan Savage official wedding photo, courtesy of Nate Gawdy (Seattle Gay News). Dan told me I could post it. :)

Dan Savage and his husband Terry, whose legal marriage in Washington State was recently overturned by the Associated Press. Photo, courtesy of Nate Gawdy (Seattle Gay News)

AP considers gay marriages akin to civil unions, but not straight marriages

AP went on to explain that “Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages.” Again, why?  Civil unions are not the same thing as same-sex marriages – or as we, and the law, like to call them, “marriages.”  While it is entirely appropriate for AP to look for a term to call any spouse that isn’t married, it is entirely inappropriate for the AP to not only dumb-down marriage by suggesting that there are limits to the use of terms husband and wife, but then to once again suggest that a legal marriage of a gay couple is somehow lesser, and only equal to a civil union, which we all know is not a marriage.

And of course, it didn’t take long for someone to pen a homophobic piece in defense of AP’s homophobic policy.  Slate’s Jeffrey Bloomer, who may or may not be gay (the story was unclear), took issue with those of us who took issue with AP taking issue with our legal marriages.

Questioning an established fact is taking sides

Bloomer claimed: “In truth, the AP didn’t ban anything, nor did it say “husband” and “wife” are reserved for opposite-sex couples.”

Right.  AP didn’t ban the use of husband and wife, except of course they did ban the words’ use if you can’t prove that you “regularly” used the terms, whatever that means, and which will be awfully difficult to prove if it’s, say, your obituary AP is writing.

More from Bloomer:

No ban, and really, no strong preference on the matter.

Yes.  I say black people are genetically equal to whites.  The KKK says blacks are genetically inferior.  A third hypothetical person, let’s call him Beffrey Jloomer, says it’s not entirely clear if blacks are genetically equal to whites as sometimes they are and sometimes they’re not.  That’s not racism.  That’s simply Jloomer signaling “no strong preference on the matter.”

When you express no strong preference on a matter of settled fact – Marco Rubio’s wonderful gaffe about the age of the earth comes to mind – you are not “objective.”  It is not an open question as to whether gay people in nine states and the District of Columbia are legally married.  They are.  They may be denied certain federal rights under the Defense of Marriage Act, but that has nothing to do with whether they are legally married.  They are.

DOMA doesn’t ban gay marriage, and it does’t apply to the AP

I had to bring up DOMA because I joked in my earlier piece that maybe AP was worried that DOMA applied to it.  And what do you know – Bloomer mentions DOMA as a reason for AP to reject legal gay marriages as legal.

The Associated Press does not have an opinion on gay marriage, to be clear, because that isn’t its role. This memo doesn’t imply one. The AP is a news organization, and the fact is that legal gay marriage remains an elusive thing, even in U.S. states that allow it, because the Defense of Marriage Act prevents full equality.

I’m going to assume that Bloomer is only playing a lawyer in print, because I am a lawyer, and Bloomer is nuts if he thinks that’s what DOMA says.  DOMA says two things.  1. No state can force another state to recognize its marriages of same-sex couples. And 2. The definition of “marriage” when dishing out federal benefits means only one man and one woman.  DOMA says nothing about whether gay men and women can get married.  It’s simply dealing with benefits.  It does not ban gay marriage.  It is irrelevant if DOMA precludes gay couples from achieving full equality.  So does not having ENDA passed.  That doesn’t mean gay couples aren’t legally married in Iowa and Maine because we haven’t yet passed ENDA.

But let’s play the “full equality” game for a moment. In some countries where marriages of same-sex couples have been legalized, full adoption rights have lagged behind. Let’s say the same thing were to happen in America.  Congress repeals DOMA, the Supreme Court strikes down laws barring gay marriages, and marriage equality becomes the law of the land.  But, like in some places abroad, they still hold back on adoption rights.  We would not be fully equal, but we would be absolutely positively “married” in every state of the Union, and under federal law.  Would AP and Bloomer suggest that we’re not really married, and they can’t use the terms husband and wife, because we don’t have “full equality”?

But why stop there?  Straight foreign couples aren’t treated equally under US law in terms of receiving federal benefits either. They get none, because they’re foreigners.  Do we not recognize their marriages?  But let’s take the analogy one step further – foreigners can’t get married to each other in the US if they don’t meet the county’s residency requirements.  So how wil the AP refer to foreign couples who are legally wed in their own countries but who can’t be married in the US?

And what about foreign gay weddings?  I’m assuming the Associated Press has wiped them out too.

Not to mention, even after we get full marriage equality in America, what’s AP going to do about posting its stories on the Web, lest some someone in Nigeria read the story, and they don’t have gay marriage in Nigeria?  Oh the confusion.  Will AP not call us husband and wife, unreservedly, until the most homophobic countries on the planet adopt marriage equality as well?  Because let’s face it, this argument about various US states having various laws on gay marriage is very pre-Internet.  The Associated Press publishes for a worldwide, not an American, audience.  So why use an American standard at all for deciding what we call married couples?

If you make an exception, make it for straight marriages too

This line from Bloomer is my favorite.

Gay people, married and unmarried, argue over what to call each other in relationships, and pretty much everyone has an opinion. I am in a domestic partnership in a state that only recently approved gay marriage, but I still prefer “boyfriend.” Many others have different preferences. Do two gay men become “husband and husband” by default just because they can get “legally married,” whatever we take that to mean?

Oh, now you done it, Lucy.  First off, your domestic partnership has absolutely no bearing on what married people call themselves. You’re not married, and the issue at hand is not what we call people in domestic partnerships.  So no one cares if you and your domestic partner have fights about what to call each other (though I have some thoughts). The issue here is what to call married people.  And the suggestion that gay people are divided over whether they’re husbands or wives when they go to get legally married is bull.  It’s also irrelevant.

First why it’s bull.  One reader tweeted about this controversy the other day:

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 3.54.05 PM

While the issue of marriage is a contentious one among some segments of the gay community, who oppose the whole idea of getting married, it’s not contentious among people who get married.  And even if it were contentious, that’s the standard of journalism we’re practicing now – AP and Slate have decided that people are no longer husband and wife if they have the wrong, or at least a conflicted, “opinion” about their marriage.

But let’s say, arguendo, that we accept AP’s, and now Bloomer’s, new rule that married gay couples are not to be called “husband” and “wife” if they “argue over what to call each other.”  Does Bloomer have the same don’t-say-husband-and-wife rule for straight married couples who argue over what to call each other?  Does AP?


So this isn’t about any “confusion” over what to call, or respect for, married people who might not like the terms husband and wife, as the AP appears to not have a similar policy that applies to the confused marriages of heterosexual couples.  The AP’s bizarre, contorted, discriminatory policy only applies to gay marriages, not straight ones.  And therein lies the discrimination, the subjectivity, and the taking of sides.

Gay people in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington state, and Washington, DC are “married” when they get married.  Just like straight people in those states. It’s offensive for Bloomer and the AP to suggest that they are not, whatever the reason.  This is not a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of law.  The courts and/or legislatures, in some states along with the people, have ruled under law that these people are legally married.  And it’s not AP’s job, nor its right, to decide by rhetorical fiat that they are not.

If AP and Bloomer are suggesting that it might get confusing to AP’s nationwide readers, in non-gay-marriage states, then that’s a different argument.  But it’s not terribly difficult in an article being published in Arkansas about a gay couple, in which you mention that they are husband and husband, to throw in a line that they were married in Iowa where the marriages of gay couples were recently legalized.  If you’re afraid of some confusion, then use your words to clarify.  It’s a heck of a better solution than hoping to clarify through censorship.

Why does the AP not apply the same rule to straight first-cousins?

One final point, and this is important.  There is a situation, akin to gay marriage, in which couples are permitted to marry in some American states, but not others.  It happens when the bride and groom are first cousins.

Twenty-five states prohibit marriages between first cousins. Six states allow first cousin marriage under certain circumstances, and North Carolina allows first cousin marriage but prohibits double-cousin marriage. States generally recognize marriages of first cousins married in a state where such marriages are legal.

So why doesn’t AP have special rules for writing about first cousins too? It’s not a perfect analogy.  But the point is, it’s not AP’s job to decide who is and isn’t married, as Bloomer the confused writer for Slate notes – it’s the state’s job, and at least 9 of the states and DC have settled the matter.  It’s AP’s job to report facts as facts.  And if a couple is legally married in their home state, which is where marriage law in the US is generally decided, then they are married, period.  And if the AP wants to make exceptions, based on some weird standard of how often people use the terms husband or wife, then that weird standard should apply equally to all legal marriages, gay and straight.

The very fact that AP’s policy, weird as it is, doesn’t apply equally to all legal marriages makes the new policy de facto discriminatory, biased, and wrong.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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107 Responses to “Day 3 of AP’s ban on words “husband,” “wife” for legally-wed gays”

  1. Naja pallida says:

    Amusingly, I just came across a style article a few moments ago from the 1964 Omaha World Herald, explaining that the word “Negro” should always be capitalized in newspaper articles. :)

  2. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I often downgrade my own posts just so I can go along with the crowd.

  3. dcinsider says:

    Asking people if they have a penis is an excellent ice breaker.

  4. SkippyFlipjack says:

    That remark is offensive to butts.

  5. SkippyFlipjack says:

    A fucking tennis match.

  6. SkippyFlipjack says:

    The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage includes, according to its description, a section on “How to choose thoughtfully between African-American and black; Hispanic and Latino; American Indian and Native American.” This is the kinds of thing these organizations have to hammer out.

  7. Sorry if I am obtuse, but since when does biology have anything to do with the names of legal relationships in a man-made language?

  8. karmanot says:


  9. karmanot says:


  10. UncleBucky says:

    Dang, yeah. OK, husband 24/7, without the EMphasis! :))

  11. Naja pallida says:

    I can honestly say, that is one of the few things that I really have no interest in knowing.

  12. Naja pallida says:

    There is a distinct difference between style and standards, and “You will refer to someone with this particular word, and not this particular word, whether they like it or not.” I just imagine the same debate back in the 60s when they were trying to debate between using the terms “negro”, “colored” or “black” in articles. Did they go to the community and say “Well, which is least offensive to you?” or did they just make a rule? Who gets to decide this stuff, and shouldn’t they have to justify their decision when they do?

  13. Naja pallida says:

    I guess appending the question with “pics, or it can’t be true.” is probably the wrong way to go.

  14. Dan in Houston says:

    My husband and I were “married” in our church over 27 years ago, of course they weren’t allowed to call it that to protect others religious rights at the cost of our religious rights. We were also married in Connecticut 2 years ago, but we live in Texas, which won’t yet recognize it. Wonder what AP would call us other than husbands to each other, the term we have used for over 27 years?

    P.S. Just returned from protesting our lack of marriage rights.

  15. Then according to AP, you’re only married when you’re angry :)

  16. I’m not convinced couples are husband and wife if they’re not married, now that they can go to another state and get married.

  17. Oh ok.

  18. It is a good question. But we’re not in a gender neutral society yet, so if we’re going to have terms for hetero marriages we should use the same for gay. Same rules apply to figuring out whether a straight couple is really a gay couples etc, same gender confusion would apply, so really doesn’t go to the issue of should use different terms once we find out the gender of the married couple.

  19. It’s how you ask ;-)

  20. Hated those terms. Lover reminds me of Young Frankenstein LOL

  21. Like that was so hard. I know.

  22. karmanot says:

    Oh my dear, you stepped in it big time with this one.

  23. karmanot says:

    I imagine in the American future the term ‘fetal would-be wife’ will be operative.

  24. karmanot says:

    Wicked John, downright wicked. LOL

  25. UncleBucky says:

    “Boyfriend” or “Girlfriend” suggests a temporary relationship or one that “you really didn’t want to have, but it just did, and, well, we know better, and you’ll get OVER it.” Meh. Nope. Samething with “Partner”, it’s a relationship that can be confused with “business partners” who would NEVER do it under the desk like George Costanza did (is that funny or not? Oh well…)

    But “husband”, “wife” and (in my mind) “SPOUSE”, work for me. I would say “mi sposo” so y’all know what that means if you speak Spanish. But if it requires that I say “my husband” or “mi marido”, then sakes alive, I’m on it. ;o)

  26. Max_1 says:

    Dear AP,
    Women are Brides and men are Grooms.
    End of biology 101.
    Women are wives and men are husbands.
    End of biology 102.
    Some are husbands and wives, others are wives with wives and others are husbands with husbands.
    End of biology 103.

    … Gawd this is getting old.

  27. UncleBucky says:

    It’s what you want it to be.

    I would call my spouse, “husband”, especially when he did something wrong:

    “Oh, HUSBAND, you didn’t REALLY mean to leave the microwave all icky inside from your midnight nosh, now did you?” :D:D:D

    Generally I would use “hubby”, “my hubby”, “oh, that hubby of mine” and especially, “hubby mine”.

    Other times, it’s “hey YOU!” :P

  28. karmanot says:

    God, do I miss living in Bennington, where Yankee sensibilities and minding one’s own business were virtues that greased all wheels.

  29. karmanot says:


  30. karmanot says:

    That’s a lot of ‘fucks’, who’s doing that, the husband or the husband, the wife or the wife, or the husband and/or the wife. I’m getting a headache. It’s like watching a tennis match.

  31. karmanot says:

    It is often a badge of honor Skippy to have a dedicated following of down arrows to decorate one’s comments. I often disagree with you, but never have considered you a troll.

  32. karmanot says:

    That’s why they run for Congress.

  33. karmanot says:

    Oh please, don’t go to ‘butt-sore,’ especially on Valentine’s Day. It might offend someone’s husband.

  34. karmanot says:

    I just hate it when I have to agree with you Cicada, but there it is. When you are on, you are ‘ON.’

  35. karmanot says:


  36. I’m old enough to have had “lovers” & “partners”, two terms I was never happy about, but since my marriage in 2009, all I have now is a wonderful husband!

  37. karmanot says:

    “You can’t turn back the hands of time, can you?” I don’t know FLL, maybe this is the journalistic equivalent of ‘creationism’.

  38. karmanot says:

    You are sweeping with a bald broom Skippy, Give it a rest.

  39. karmanot says:

    “or someone who is visibly mentally defective. ” Well, that includes all Republicans, so I can’t go there with you, nor for the eldery either (a group of which I claim) I would kick out their canes or tip over their wheels, simply to demonstrate that they are off their walkers in a manner that is uncontovertible. The old are the least innocent of all and senility is no excuse for a lifetime of bigotry or bullshit. A senior ninja who takes no prisoners would do this as an ultimate act of compassion and education.

  40. karmanot says:

    And, there remains the question: Why do we presume that AP ( in its FOX-like corruptions) with its downward death sprial of credibility have any audience at all in these matters?

  41. James Olson says:

    AP can bite my shiny metal a$$. I’ve been married to my husband for 10 years. He’s my husband, end of discussion.

  42. karmanot says:

    Which makes a good case for gender neutral legal definitions for civil marriage. It’s a good question.

  43. karmanot says:

    Ain’t that the truth. We may have suspected that Marcus Bachmann had a strap-on, but never in a hundred years would have thought to ask.

  44. karmanot says:

    “what exactly do the terms ‘husband and wife’ mean in a gay marriage” answer: accommodation to the straight traditions of legal definition. I hate these terms and their accommodating hetro sexist cultural nuances.. We prefer ‘life companions’.

  45. FuzzyRabbit says:

    Good point. I was thinking the same thing.

    In news articles, Mormon polygamists’ female partners are always referred to as “wives”, even though they are not married. I suspect most of those news articles were written by the AP. If so, further evidence of the AP’s anti-gay bias.

  46. Stephen Clark says:

    Hi. John. I added a lengthy criticism of Mr. Bloomer’s piece in the comment section at the end of his piece at Slate. There doesn’t seem to be a way to link directly to it my comment itself.

  47. BeccaM says:

    I said this yesterday and maybe it bears repeating: The Associated Press issued this edict to ensure that its contributing journalists do not use terminology that equates same-sex legally married couples with hetero couples for one reason and one only: To avoid pissing off fundamentalist conservative Christians, because despite being a minority of Americans at this point, these homophobic bigots still wield a great deal of political power and influence.

    Plus they literally run one of America’s two main political parties. Don’t believe me? Read the 2012 GOP party platform. They’re still calling for a repeal of all pro-gay rights legislation, are solid in opposition to anti-bullying laws, and continue to call for a Constitutional amendment to ban and annul all same-sex marriages.

  48. FLL says:

    LOL. Your comment made my day.

  49. FLL says:

    Considering your second paragraph, I’ll say we’re in agreement. AP may allow writers and editors to use “husband” or “wife” for same-sex spouses, but using “partner” as the default is wrong because it misleads the public into thinking that the two people only have a civil union, when in fact, they have a legal marriage in their state. My main point is that AP and their reporters should accurately inform the public, and if two people are legally married in their state, the journalistic writing should reflect that.

    As far as your first paragraph, I understand what you’re saying, but I think the use of the term “wife” for a biological male who identifies as female could be the very rare case of a pre-operative male who is married to a man and intends to change anatomical gender. In that case (assuming the journalist knows of these circumstances), maybe the word “spouse” would be better. The only possibility I can see in your first paragraph has nothing to do with gender reassignment, and is only a humorous and very informal usage. Journalists usually use an “official” sounding style regarding gender, so I doubt if humorous references would find their way into objective reporting. The editorial pages can get a little humorous, but that’s not objective reporting.

  50. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I don’t think that’s exactly right though — how often in a written piece do you see a couple referred to, literally, as “husband and wife”? I think they’re talking more generally in their style guideline: writing “Mister Johnson and his partner Kyle have lived in the area for seven years,” as opposed to “his husband”, in cases in which they know the couple is married.

  51. BeccaM says:

    I wouldn’t resort to violence, but if my wife and I were asked which of us was the husband, my response would be, “What the fuck is wrong with you and where do you get off asking a question like that?”*

    (* = Unless asked by a really elderly person who’s never knowingly met a married lesbian couple before, or someone who is visibly mentally defective. As opposed to someone of purportedly sound mind making the lifestyle choice to be an ignorant bigot.)

  52. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Stop being butt-sore and get over it.

  53. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Except that it’s how every news organization and major publishing house works — style guides exist so writers and editors and copy editors can all be on the same page (no pun intended) and working from the same rulebook. They do this for accuracy, consistency and style. You can buy the New York Times’ Style Guide on Amazon.

  54. SkippyFlipjack says:

    “Trollish” means that badgerote doesn’t believe the words s/he is saying and is only trying to start an argument. Do you think this is true? I don’t; the language doesn’t suggest that, and most trolls don’t write posts that long.

  55. SkippyFlipjack says:

    All good points. To your first one (and to John’s point) I’d offer the example of a biological male who self-identifies as female and gets married. Whether that person is referred to by their spouse as husband or wife is up to the couple and isn’t simply determined by the existence of a penis. I’ll acknowledge that it’s a bit of an edge case though I imagine people active in the trans community may not.

    I have a hard time attacking the AP for their ethics per se since their rules allow writers and editors latitude in referring to same-sex spouses as husbands or wives. I think their style note has a big but narrow problem in that it instructs writers to refer to married same-sex couples as “partners” or “couples” as a default. That’s wrong and should be fixed; if a couple is married, they’re married.

    I also think summarizing this as a ‘Ban on Words “Husband,” “Wife”‘, like John does in this post, is misleading and inaccurate. A ban on a word in a certain context is, you know, a ban on using that word in that context, which isn’t the case here.

  56. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Thanks for the reply. That’s pretty good but it seems worse than the first half of the AP standard — it requires a marriage legally recognized in their state, rather than just going by the couple’s own preference. I had friends who used the term “husband” before they were allowed to be legally married in our state. Why not respect that? Your choice requires more intrusive questions by the reporter than the AP’s guide would; also, your wording doesn’t cover cases in which the writer doesn’t know if those conditions apply.

  57. FLL says:

    All right, I take it back. You weren’t trying to be a smart-ass. Fine. I’ll answer the objection seriously. When transgender people get married, I think their legal status simply reflects their anatomical gender, at least I think that’s the law in most states. The individual states will change a person’s gender status on their driver’s license, etc., and I’m sure that would be reflected when they get married. You’re suggesting that this complicates matters when referring to married couples. I really don’t see how. If someone’s post-operative gender is female, and she marries, she is someone’s wife, and the state would also list her gender as female on her driver’s license. So where’s the complication?

    One question that I would ask you is if you think that AP is disregarding journalistic ethics. Journalists are supposed to inform their readers, not deliberately misinform their readers or lie to them. What AP is suggesting is that reporters should lie and misinform by concealing the fact that two people are legally married in their state, even though the reporter knows that the two people are married. That’s just unethical journalism, don’t you think?

    I understand your exasperation with people blindly supporting a particular blogger, and I can see alternatives that John didn’t mention. One possibility is that AP could simply use the word “spouse.” This wouldn’t be as complete as John’s suggestion, but at least AP wouldn’t be spreading outright misinformation. I think I’m being reasonable here. Let’s say an individual reporter is allergic to using the terms “husband” and “wife” when referring to same-sex couples. Then just use the word “spouse” and you don’t turn yourself into a liar.

  58. Naja pallida says:

    What is stupid is an official AP writer’s guideline about this at all. Writers should be doing enough research into their own stories to know which terminology to use in appropriate context. Not an automatic rule to discriminate.

  59. Naja pallida says:

    I don’t know, I’m all for the “If you don’t know, you should ask to be sure, before looking like an idiot.” but I tend to get the strangest looks from people when I ask if they have a penis.

  60. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I wasn’t trying to be a smart-ass, exactly — this entire story is about accuracy in language, and John in his long post extends analogies to first cousins, the KKK, etc, so it’s legitimate to point out that his definition of husband v. wife is incomplete.

  61. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Almost as fucking stupid as your response. How do you think reporters find out that people — straight or gay — are married, in order to accurately refer to their relationship in a story? They fucking ask them.

  62. SkippyFlipjack says:


  63. SkippyFlipjack says:

    No, it’s about you being an asshole.

  64. Stev84 says:

    This isn’t a disagreement in any way whatsoever. It’s about being too stupid to understand what the topic is about in the first place.

  65. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I’ve been posting here for a decade, and one thing that never changes is the blinkered assholes who think that anyone who disagrees with them — or specifically, disagrees with their blind agreement with John or one of the other writers — is a troll or an idiot.

  66. EDIT: Ugh, I hate being stupid.

  67. NCMan says:

    Actually, the AP could have made their statement a bit clearer. It could have been interpreted as if they were addressing an issue of same-sex couples wanting to be referred to as Husband & Wife. They should have worded it as Husband & Husband or Wife & Wife. Then there would be no possibility of this confusion that I have seen now on many sites.

  68. So every homosexual married couple has to be quizzed first on their choice of language before an article can be written about them, but heterosexual couples don’t have to be? Do you realize how fucking stupid that sounds?

  69. This is such a weird thing for the Associated Press to get hung up on. If you’re married and a man, you’re a husband. If you’re married and a woman, you’re a wife. When my partner (ugh) and I marry we’ll both be husbands, isn’t that plain enough? What’s there to dicker about?

  70. Stev84 says:

    I’m not sure it’s deliberate trolling. He isn’t the first one. Some people are apparently so stupid that they don’t understand what this is about.

  71. RyansTake says:

    John, you absolutely took apart that self-hater. Good.

  72. FLL says:

    You probably are working on some argument to show that marriage equality itself is offensive to transgendered folks. Nobody likes a smart-ass.

  73. FLL says:

    That’s not “a ton of conditions,” but it’s an unreasonable condition, and one that smacks of insulting double standards. You may approve of double standards, but I think that they are going out of style. You can’t turn back the hands of time, can you?

  74. FLL says:

    You know very well that neither John’s post nor AP’s guideline has anything to do with anyone calling a man “a wife” or a woman “a husband.” Your comment is completely off-topic and gratuitously insulting, a textbook example of a troll remark. Beyond that, I’ll give you some helpful advice about your first sentence, whether you want it or not. A reasonable writer would word that sentence as follows:

    “I admit to being confused about this issue.”

    Instead, your first sentence informs us that you understand the issue perfectly, but you’re only confused about why people are so foolishly concerned. As far as whether it sounds “kind of stupid to call a guy a wife and a woman a husband,” you’re the only one who sounds kind of stupid (and trollish) to ignore John’s post and reply to some post that exists in your imagination. I have nothing against you, Badgerote; I only want you to clean up your writing style. Any improvement would be welcome.

  75. FLL says:

    You certainly have the right to comment on courteous or discourteous language in the comment section, but I think you can admit the fact that Skeptical Cicada is right about Badgerote deliberately ignoring the entire substance of this thread and presenting us with a ridiculous straw man. Badgerote is not using vulgar language, but his comment is clearly trollish. He’s just trying to provoke a reaction with an inflammatory straw man.

  76. Hue-Man says:

    In Canada, The Civil Marriage Act – which applies to the entire country – says “2. Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.” (BTW, With only one definition, all the other marriage benefits – taxation, pensions, child custody, estates – are automatically extended.) There is no logical reason for AP to refer to husband/wife differently from husband/husband.

  77. SkippyFlipjack says:

    You’re the one who looks like an imbecile. Be courteous, or go play outside.

  78. Do straight couples have to meet that condition? No? Then it’s discrimination.

  79. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Isn’t that offensive to transgendered folks?

  80. SkippyFlipjack says:

    “A ton of conditions”? Come on — their standard is, if a guy says “this is my husband,” they use the term husband. That’s their ton of conditions.

  81. Stev84 says:

    Even the old rule was somewhat silly. For example in Britain it’s perfectly normal for people in civil partnerships to call themselves husbands and wives.

    On another note, there are also some straight married couples there who refer to themselves as partners. Same in some other countries that are less hung up about marriage. For example the current German president is unmarried and has been with his girlfriend/partner for over 10 years. It’s not really an issue.

  82. In all the reporting I read on Osama Bin Laden, they referred to his “wives.” Polygamy isn’t legal anywhere in the US, but the AP gives the same status to members of a polygamous group as they do to legally married straight couples, but refuses to grant the same default status to gay couple who actually ARE legally married in this country. I think that pretty definitively shows the rationale behind downgrading our marriages in print.

  83. Yeah, you’d have to refer to baby girls in birth announcements as “brides.”

  84. Here’s what I’d write:

    “If the couples have taken part in a marriage legally recognized by their state of residence at the time of their marriage, then you should refer to them in the same manner you would refer to heterosexual spouses. If you are concerned about confusion from readers in states that do not permit gay couples to marry, simply add a sentence to your story that says “Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones were married in 2012 in Iowa, where gay couples have been legally permitted to wed since blah blah blah.”


  85. No gay couple, ever, has referred to themselves as “husband and wife.” Men are husbands; women are wives. Gay married couples are “husband and husband” or “wife and wife.” AP is saying to legally-married men or women cannot be referred to as “husband and husband” or “wife and wife” unless a ton of conditions are met that do not apply to any other legally-married couples. That’s the double-standard; that’s discrimination. As a side note, I am a married gay man myself, and I would punch you in the face if you ever asked which one of us is the “wife,” so watch yourself with that crap.

  86. Where did you add your comments?

  87. That’s what bothers me. The standard before was “the state has to legalize it.” Now that the state has, they’ve suddenly created more hoops, though in fact they don’t even tell us what the hoops are – when will it be okay to treat us equally?

  88. It’s pretty easy. Anyone with a penis is a husband, and anyone with a vagina is a wife.

  89. Stev84 says:


    I don’t get how people can be so fucking stupid. I just don’t get it *weeps for humanity*

  90. Stev84 says:

    I agree that SkepticalCicada can be extremely condensing and it’s annoying at times, but this time s/he is right. This is exactly what the discussion is about. If you think otherwise you have misread something.

  91. Skeptical Cicada says:

    I have actually fucking read all of John’s fucking posts and all of the fucking users’ fucking comments on the subject.

  92. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Oh, for fuck’s sake! Not another one!!!

    There are at least three blog posts on this site that explain this issue and dozens of user comments that have already addressed your complete misunderstanding of the issue. But rather than read any of the blog posts or comments, you just stampede to the comments section and make yourself look like an imbecile.

    The issue is not that one of the gay male spouses wants to be called “wife” or that one of the lesbian spouses wants to be called “husband.” Godammit! This is not about fucking Klinger from fucking MASH!

    The issue is that the AP’s rule says it will not refer to MARRIED gay men as “husbands” or even “spouses” or MARRIED lesbians as “wives” or even “spouses,” but will instead called these MARRIED gays and lesbians UNMARRIED “partners,” like they aren’t even married, as a default rule.

  93. Badgerote says:

    I admit to being confused by the concern about this issue. I’ve known gay female couples, not officially married, but who considered themselves married and they both referred to the other as ‘my wife’. I have never heard a gay female refer to the other female as ‘my husband’. Just because I haven’t heard it does not, of course, mean it does not occur. But the term ‘husband’ connotes a male and ‘wife’ a female. Those roles seem to not apply to a gay marriage. In a straight marriage, it is easy to identify the wife and the husband because those are gender based terms. So, how do you distinguish who is the ‘husband’ and who is the ‘wife’ when the couple are the same gender and what exactly do the terms ‘husband and wife’ mean in a gay marriage as opposed to a straight marriage where the term connotes gender. I think AP is just trying to sort this out. I don’t think they are consigning you to second class status by not being able, without knowing the people involved, to identify which is which. This is a new type of marriage, after all and personally, I think it sounds kind of stupid to call a guy a wife and a woman a husband. But I could be wrong.

  94. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Not if you actually fucking read all of John’s fucking posts on the subject, you condescending fuck (to borrow from your own personal style guide).

  95. Skeptical Cicada says:

    That *IS* where the discussion has been focused!!!! Get with the program.

  96. caphillprof says:

    I’d hate to be an AP reporter in Saudi Arabia.

  97. HolyMoly says:

    As for the reporter (Crary) who reportedly refuses to follow the AP’s ban, that’s great as far as it goes. But doesn’t he have to submit his work to an editor, someone who would then change all the “husbands” and “wives” to “partners”? His work may be pure going into the meat grinder, but not so much coming out the other end.

  98. caphillprof says:

    I remember when major newspapers would not report civil unions because the participants were not “legally married.” So now that same sex couples are “legally married” they will not report them as husband and wife.

    What we need to do is to pressure news outlets to announce policies that they will rewrite AP stories which fail to use the terms husbands or wives.

  99. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Right, I agree with this — I don’t get why that last sentence doesn’t say something like: “Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions, and spouse or husband and wife to describe those in same-sex marriages.” That’s where I think the discussion should focus, and a lot of this other stuff distracts from that.

  100. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Try reading the last sentence of the AP directive, or the GLAAD discussion of it.

    The final sentence says that if a reporter does not know what word married gay people call themselves, the reporter is required to hide the existence of their marriages and call them unmarried “partners.”

    Unclear what’s so fucking hard to understand about how discriminatory and insulting that is.

  101. Stev84 says:

    And that’s fine. If people in a CU or DP call themselves husbands and wives that should be acknowledged.

    But you you clearly missed the second part. If two people are married, then AP won’t refer to them as husbands/wives unless they explicitly use those terms themselves. They are downgrading married couples to “partners” unless they have proof of which terms they use. They don’t do that with straight couples.

  102. Stephen Clark says:

    Thanks for this catch, John. I just added my own critical comment to his story.

  103. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Sorry, I’m just not getting this. In most states gay couples unfortunately can’t get married, yet the AP is saying I’d the subject of an article uses the term Husband, they’ll use the term Husband, regardless of whether that is a legal fact for the person in question. Sounds reasonable to me, or at the very least the opposite of a ‘ban’.

  104. That’s funny, I was just thinking this morning that it was a bit too long, then realized I was thinking lawyerly when I wrote it, as length doesn’t really argue against a legal argument, or more generally, logic. Though in popular writing it probably helps to be more concise :)

  105. Carlton Nettleton says:

    Slam dunk, John! Now that is how a lawyer argues when you have got his ire. I should know since my HUSBAND is a lawyer

  106. hollywoodstein says:

    Will AP admit who is making the call on this? Can Crary tell without getting in trouble? Or is it hidden behind a super double secret committee that would not appreciate some input from the community?

  107. I’d be curious to know what the AP’s policy is when referring to polygamous marriages, both in the United States and in other countries. Is it a husband, his wife, and his other partners? Or do they get to be husband and wives?

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