Following widespread confusion and outcry, the Associated Press (AP) has updated its style guidelines to include "husband" and "wife" as acceptable terminology for people in a legal marriage. The following entry appeared in the AP Stylebook Online, and is scheduled to appear in the 2013 print and mobile additions:
husband, wife Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.
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.
This memo sparked reactions from GLAAD, as well as advocates like John Aravosis of AMERICAblog, The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, Michelangelo Signorile of HuffPost Gay Voices, and several others. Individual Associated Press reporters shared that their practice was to refer to married people as "husband" and "wife" regardless of sexual orientation, and a quick glance through the news provided several recent examples of AP reporters getting it right in practice, and not actually following the sentiment put forth by that memo.
Just yesterday, GLAAD called on the Associated Press to add an entry to the AP Stylebook stating that men who are legally married should be referred to as "husband" and women who are legally married should be referred to as "wife", regardless of the gender of the spouse.
"The new official entry in the AP Stylebook is a welcomed change," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "Why it took a breaking-news wire service 10 days to fix the problem remains a mystery, but what's clear is that words matter -- especially at the largest news operation in the world."
"The AP has never had a Stylebook entry on the question of the usage of husband and wife," said AP Senior Managing Editor for U.S. News Mike Oreskes. "All the previous conversation was in the absence of such a formal entry. This lays down clear and simple usage. After reviewing existing practice, we are formalizing 'husband, wife' as an entry."