Marriage Equality, Gay Marriage and Same-Sex Marriage

The most recent Press Pass Q has an excellent article about the use of “gay marriage” vs. “same-sex marriage” in LGBT publications. The article also explores whether “marriage equality” is only an activist term.

The NLGJA stylebook supplement suggests “marriage for same-sex couples” but prefers “same-sex marriage” over “gay marriage” because its more inclusive of women.

That said, there isn’t much consensus in the eight LGBT publications cited in the article. All sorts of things are taken into consideration, from accuracy to activism to the practical realities of generating site traffic:

In the nation’s capital, Metro Weekly and the Washington Blade have taken different approaches.

“Preferred usage for the Blade is ‘same-sex marriage,’” said editor Kevin Naff, agreeing that “marriage equality” is an activist term.

However, Metro Weekly prefers ‘marriage equality,’ said managing editor Will O’Bryan. “While some might feel that the phrase is a form of editorializing, we would argue the same with regard to ‘same-sex marriage.’ In D.C., we live in a jurisdiction where people of the same sex who marry get a marriage license. They don’t get a ‘same-sex marriage license.’ And as an LGBT publication, it’s a given for us that LGBT people are first-class citizens, even when that’s not reflected in law.”

Practical considerations of the Internet era – search engine optimization – also affect word choice. “It seems that when we use ‘marriage equality,’ our copy is far less likely to get picked up by the Google algorithms … than when we use ‘same-sex marriage,’ O’Bryan said.

He has a point. A Google search yields far greater results for “gay marriage” than “same-sex marriage.” The former generates 29,600,00 results, with the latter pulling up 16,900,000. “Marriage equality” draws 5,550,000 results.

Still, word choice at Charlotte, N.C-based Q-Notes makes little difference. “We’ve used ‘gay marriage,’ ‘same-sex marriage,’ and ‘marriage equality’ interchangeably,” said editor Matt Comer.

“A quick search of our web site for those specific terms returns nearly the same number of returns for each,” Comer said. “It’s like splitting hairs, in my opinion. No matter what it’s called, people know what you are talking about.”

Not necessarily, says Duncan Osborne, associate editor of New York City-based Gay City News.

“I use ‘marriage,’ ‘gay marriage,’ or ‘same-sex marriage.’ I never use ‘marriage equality,’” said Osborne. “‘Marriage equality’ is meaningful to some people in the lesbian and gay community, but is probably not understood by most people outside of our community,” he said.

So, what do NLGJA members think?