Associated Press reaffirms that gay married couples are ‘partners’ rather than ‘husbands’ and ‘wives’ in face of criticism

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A spokesman for the Associated Press (AP), the foremost authority on journalistic style and standards, has reaffirmed that it will be sticking to guidelines published on 11 February that state reporters should “generally” not refer to same-sex married couples as “husbands” or “wives”.

Speaking to BuzzFeed, spokesman Paul Colford said that the memo would stand, as it was setting out what has historically been standard procedure for the AP.

“This week’s style guidance reaffirmed AP’s existing practice. We’ve used husband and wife in the past for same-sex married couples and have made clear that reporters can continue going forward,” he said.

Mr Colford was defending the AP’s decision to send reporters a memo saying “husband” and “wife” can be used in AP stories, but that generally the AP uses words like “couples” or “partners” when referring to those in a civil union or same-sex marriage.

This was quickly revised once media industry watchdog journalist Jim Romenesko published the memo on his blog.

The updated AP memo clarifies that “husband” or “wife” can be used, but only if the married couple involved regularly used those terms, or if the terms are used in quotes attributed to the couple.

The style guide’s suggestion that same-sex spouses should only be described as “husband” or “wife” under those two circumstances, drew criticism from LGBT groups, journalists, and from within the AP, as it was seen as creating a double standard.

David Cray, a New York based journalist, said he would rebel against the rules: “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.”

Robert Kessler of the news website Gawker says the memo seems to indicate “a jarring separate by equal standard for married couples.”