Open Letter to AP Stylebook Editor
The Associated Press
I am writing you today on behalf of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, a nonprofit organization made up of working journalists and their supporters. We are not an advocacy group. Our mission, similar to that of other minority journalist organizations, is to ensure fair and accurate coverage of the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGBT) community. We’re writing to you today as fellow journalists, and as members of the LGBT communities to offer some advice on how to best reference same-sex married people in news reports.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with David Steinberg, former NLGJA president, about the recent internal memo that offers guidance on how to refer to people in same-sex relationships. We appreciate the AP guidance to use terms people use about themselves. The revision to the original memo was a step in the right direction. What is troubling is the final sentence in the memo: "Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages."
Such guidance may be appropriate for referring to people in civil unions, for which there are no established terms and the language is still evolving, but it suggests a double standard for same-sex individuals in legally recognized marriages. One has to assume that AP would never suggest that the default term should be "couples" or "partners" when describing people in opposite-sex marriages. We strongly encourage you to revise the style advisory to make it clear that writers should use the same terms for married individuals, whether they are in a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage.
Language choices like these have an impact. Such reporting can reinforce the idea that marriages between same-sex individuals are fundamentally different from marriages between a man and a woman.
NLGJA offers some helpful online tools for reporters covering the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. You can find our NLGJA Stylebook Supplement on LGBT Terminology at http://www.nlgja.org/resources/stylebook, and our Journalists’ Toolbox is available online at http://www.nlgja.org/Toolbox. We hope both guides will be useful to you in the quest for good journalism.
Thank you for your time. Should you need any assistance with LGBT coverage issues in the future, please don't hesitate to contact me and to otherwise use the NLGJA as a resource.