The Associated Press Stylebook – the style guide most news organizations use for writing and editing copy – made clear on Feb. 21 its position on the use of “husband” or “wife.”
The stylebook entry for “husband, wife,” reads, “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.”
For more than a week, there had been confusion and controversy over the AP style for “husband, wife” after the release of an internal memo. In that document, AP said it generally uses "partners" or "couples" to describe people in same-sex marriages or civil unions.
On Feb. 21, with its change to the online Stylebook, AP issued a release noting that the print edition will be updated this spring.
The release also quoted AP senior managing editor for U.S. news, Mike Oreskes, stating, “The AP has never had a Stylebook entry on the question of the usage of husband and wife. 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.”
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation/GLAAD president Herndon Graddick responded, "The new official entry in the AP Stylebook is a welcomed change. 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."