The Associated Press and the Normalization of Same-Sex Marriage

Last week the Associated Press (AP) notified its constituents of a new entry in the AP Stylebook. This new entry addresses the appropriate use of the terms husband and wife. The text of the entry is:

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.

This entry has been officially added to the online version of the AP Stylebook and will appear in the print edition later this spring.

The Associated Press is perhaps the most influential news organization in the world. Their stories and photos have run in news outlets since 1846. The AP Stylebook (first published in 1953 and updated annually) serves as the standard style guide for journalists. As a result, the choices the Stylebook makes in the use of language impact how readers and listeners of news media will view issues.

In a press release on the new Stylebook entry, Mike Oreskes, AP Senior Managing Editor for U.S. News, stated,

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.

I find the comment by Mr. Oreskes to be quite interesting. For 50 years, the Associated Press had never seen a reason to post an entry regarding the usage of husband and wife. However, now they determine there is a need for such an entry, and it reflects a change to the long held understanding of marriage in our society. I would argue that the reason no entry was needed previously is that society at large clearly understood the meaning and usage of husband and wife. A husband and wife are the two individuals in a marriage. The husband is male, and the wife is female. It was understood that a husband would have a wife and a wife would have a husband.

However, in this age of attempts to redefine marriage, the AP has determined it will weigh in on the matter. Notice the language of the entry. It reads, “Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage.” Thus, journalists can use AP-approved style to refer to two husbands or two wives. They could, perhaps, even refer to the two individuals in a same-sex marriage as husband and wife with the approval of the couple if that is how the individuals view their roles in that “marriage.”

The AP has jumped into the fray with an agenda to normalize same-sex marriage in society through the use of language in journalism. What I find ironic in all of this is the tag at the end of the press release describing the AP. It reads:

The Associated Press is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. Founded in 1846, AP today is the most trusted source of independent news and information. On any given day, more than half the world’s population sees news from AP. On the Web: www.ap.org.

There are a few adjectives that the AP uses to describe itself that are violated in their latest addition to the Stylebook. They claim to be a “global news network,” to deliver “unbiased news,” and to be a “trusted source of independent news and information.”

As a “global news network,” surely the AP is aware that same-sex marriage is not a global norm. In fact, most of the world does not recognize same-sex marriage as legitimate. Delivering “unbiased news” means that it is free of political agendas, yet there is hardly a more vocal political group than the homosexual community attempting to normalize their lifestyle. Finally, a “trusted source of independent news and information” will refrain from promoting a particular viewpoint over other valid options. In making this change to the Stylebook, the Associated Press has violated all three of these descriptions for its own mission.

The normalization of same-sex marriage (and homosexuality in general) has been a goal of the homosexual community for decades. They have often found a sympathetic ear among journalists, especially those whose politics lean to the left. However, they have now found support from the “essential global news network” known as the Associated Press. Despite the fact that the AP claims to be unbiased and independent, it has now voiced an opinion in this matter. The opinion was placed in the most subtle of places—a journalistic style manual. I dare say this was not by accident. Why make a public policy statement when you can simply change the use of language?

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” As Christians, we tend to do fairly well on being “innocent as doves,” but we often lack the shrewdness of serpents. This is a time when we need to be shrewd and attentive to our culture so that we are prepared to defend the biblical model of marriage as it is being attacked on all sides.

_________________________

New entry in the AP Stylebook: husband, wife,” Associated Press, February 21, 2013.

*Special thanks to Benjamin Hawkins, Senior Writer in the Office of Communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, for bring this announcement to my attention.

20 comments

  1. “Despite the fact that the AP claims to be unbiased and independent, it has now voiced an opinion in this matter.”

    And that opinion is that people can be called what they want to be called.

    Why does that matter?

    I know several married gay couples, and they refer to each other as ‘husbands’ or ‘wives’. This is a fact, whether you support it or not.

    Is the AP not allowed to report on facts?

    1. It is not that people have chosen to call themselves by such terms that matters. It is that the AP is now declaring it normative. Followers of the AP Stylebook are instructed to use the terms in this manner. It is clearly still an active debate in our culture, but the “independent, unbiased” AP has determined the issue is settled. This is not an issue of facts but an agenda promoted by the AP.

  2. If the AP wants to call them partners, same-sex partners, etc, it could do so. The use of husband and wife for same-sex relationships co-opts terminology that has been used for thousands of years with clear meaning.

    1. “co-opts terminology ”

      No. It uses language that fits the situation.

      Language is a tool that we use. If two men are married (and they can, legally, in many countries and some states), then they’re husbands. Simple as that.

      You can certainly be offended about that. And even speak up against it. But don’t expect, necessarily, to be taken seriously if you do so.

      1. Words have meaning. To change meanings is to co-opt language. The terms husband and wife have always been used to describe heterosexual marriage. Changing them to apply to something else co-opts them.

        If you don’t think I should be taken seriously on this, I find it interesting that you keep returning to comment. I appreciate the dialogue so I encourage you to continue. However, your parting comment implies that anyone who holds to traditional marriage is not serious or has no real argument.

  3. “Words have meaning.”

    Meaning that we give them. We aren’t beholden to language. Language is beholden to us and out usage of it.

    “The terms husband and wife have always been used to describe heterosexual marriage. ”

    And now they’re used to describe the participants in both heterosexual and homosexual marriage.

    ‘Tradition’ isn’t a good excuse by itself.

    “If you don’t think I should be taken seriously on this, I find it interesting that you keep returning to comment.”

    I enjoy online conversation. And I believe most people can understand reason. Eventually. Or someone reading this might.

    “your parting comment implies that anyone who holds to traditional marriage is not serious or has no real argument.”

    What is ‘traditional marriage’? I’m a male and I’m married to a female. I did not get her father’s land when we married. If my marriage was really traditional, shouldn’t I have received that?

    Neither of us are religious. We got married in Vegas in a completely non-religious ceremony. And yet, according to us, and according to the government, we are legally married and legally husband and wife.

    If homosexuals can be legally married, does that prevent you from getting a heterosexual one?

    If it doesn’t prevent that, then you position isn’t ‘for traditional marriage’. It’s ‘against gay marriage’.

    And you’re right, I’m of the opinion that the people who are against gay marriage have no real argument.

    1. If words only have meaning that we give to them with no respect to historical usage, what is the point of dictionaries? Is the sky yellow? Is grass purple? Why not?

      When you speak of traditional marriage implying that the husband gets the land of his father-in-law, I am not certain to what tradition you refer. It is beside the point, but most land transferred historically from fathers to sons, not to sons-in-law.

      When I say traditional marriage, I do not speak of religious marriage per se. I mean heterosexual marriage where the possibility of procreation through biological complementarity exists. That does not mean procreation is required for a marriage to be legitimate, but the biological complementarity for such exists. This is how marriage has been defined for millennia.

      Government has only recently authorized homosexual marriage (in some states and countries), but in order to do so, it had to redefine marriage. Most of our civil law regarding marriage is built upon the idea that marriage begets children. Now marriage has been redefined as a romantic, emotional relationship. With that new definition, a man can marry a woman, another man, multiple women, multiple men, multiple men and women, his first cousin, or even his sister. Making an argument for same-sex marriage necessarily entails supporting polygamy, polyamory, and incestuous marriage. In fact there is a federal lawsuit pending in Utah for the decriminalization of bigamy/polygamy using the exact same arguments made for same-sex marriage.

      If you believe those who define marriage exclusively as heterosexual have no argument, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Robert P. George’s What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman a Defense. George is professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University. He’s authored many books on philosophy, law, politics, etc. He teaches at one of the most respected universities in the country, and he argues that marriage can only be defined in heterosexual terms. The argument he makes is not religious, but philosophical, political, and historical.

      1. “that we give to them with no respect to historical usage”

        How is using ‘husband’ to define a male who is married somehow using the word without respect to its history?

        ” it had to redefine marriage. ”

        ‘Redefine’ implies that marriage has changed for heterosexuals. It has slightly added to the definition. It hasn’t redefined it, because straight marriages are unchanged.

        “Making an argument for same-sex marriage necessarily entails supporting polygamy, polyamory, and incestuous marriage.”

        No it doesn’t.

        “He teaches at one of the most respected universities in the country, and he argues that marriage can only be defined in heterosexual terms.”

        And he’s wrong.

        Interesting how having lots of credentials doesn’t mean your automatically correct, don’t you think?

  4. Come on now, just because he disagrees with you Robert George is wrong? You haven’t even read his argument.

    By equating same-sex marriage to heterosexual marriage, it necessarily redefines marriage for all. You cannot have it both ways. And yes, it does open the door to polygamy, polyamory, etc. It is only logical.

    I challenge you to consider George’s argument. You cannot declare someone to be wrong without knowing what he says. That is quite narrow-minded and intolerant.

    I’ve read those who disagree with me–some of the best. I find their arguments lacking, but at least I have read them and interacted with them. I challenge you to do the same. It makes you smarter to read those who disagree with you.

    1. “Come on now, just because he disagrees with you Robert George is wrong? ”

      No. Because this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about or researched this subject, and after a good deal of research and discussion I’ve concluded that there is no good reason to keep homosexuals from getting legally married.

      I doubt his ‘historical’ arguments will change that.

      “You cannot have it both ways.”

      Still, you have yet to tell me how heterosexual marriage has changed. At all. Do so, and I might see things your way.

      “You cannot declare someone to be wrong without knowing what he says.”

      Then tell me what he says. I have no interested in purchasing his book. If his argument is so convincing, you should be able to relate it and convert me quite easily, shouldn’t you?

      1. Despite the fact that you have no intentions of actually reading George’s argument, here are the basic statements regarding the definition of marriage and why homosexual marriage doesn’t fit.

        George defines his conjugal view of marriage this way: “Marriage is, of its essence, a comprehensive union: a union of will (by consent) and body (by sexual union); inherently ordered to procreation and thus the broad sharing of family life; and calling for permanent and exclusive commitment, whatever the spouses’ preferences.”

        He defines the revisionist view (that which supports and promotes homosexual marriage) as follows: “It is a vision of marriage as, in essence, a loving emotional bond, one distinguished by its intensity—a bond that needn’t point beyond the partners, in which fidelity is ultimately subject to one’s own desires. In marriage, so understood, partners seek emotional fulfillment, and remain as long as they find it.”

        The revisionist definition of marriage is how proponents of homosexual marriage define marriage. However, that also logically leads to other forms of marriage including polygamy and polyamory. Marriage from this perspective is only based on emotion.

        So let me ask you a couple of questions. How do you define marriage? Since you would define marriage in such a way to include homosexual marriage, how do you prevent more than 2 people from getting married (i.e., polygamy, polyamory) or even incestuous marriage by 2 consenting adults?

  5. Hmm. That does not sound “unbiased” to me. I’m not exactly sure of what other countries, save for possibly England, that have legalized same-sex marriage, or even recognize it at this point for that matter. I understand that either way AP leans on this way, someone is sure to say they’re biased but they have to make their stand somewhere, I suppose. Unfortunately, I do not think it is a step in the correct one.

    1. “I’m not exactly sure of what other countries, save for possibly England”

      Canada
      Belgium
      The Netherlands
      Spain
      South Africa
      Norway
      Sweden
      Portugal
      Iceland
      Argentina

  6. “inherently ordered to procreation”

    From a legal point of view (which is all I care about, your religion can do whatever it wants), this is incorrect. If it were, you could only get married if you swore to have children.

    “thus the broad sharing of family life; and calling for permanent and exclusive commitment, whatever the spouses’ preferences.”

    There is nothing in that statement that cannot be achieved by homosexuals.

    “In marriage, so understood, partners seek emotional fulfillment, and remain as long as they find it.” ”

    So in other words…nearly every single marriage in the United States as it exists today, long before gay marriage was an issue.

    “How do you define marriage?”

    A legal union of two consenting adults making them family, in the legal sense. Emotionally, that’s entirely up to the individuals involved.

    ” how do you prevent more than 2 people from getting married”

    Why would I? Is it harmful? Can you demonstrate that it causes harm?

    If it doesn’t, I see no reason to prevent, provided all members are consenting.

    But at the same time, I see no problem limiting legal marriages arbitrarily to two people. I would, however, fully acknowledge that it is arbitrary and mostly for legal ease.

    1. In a previous comment you wrote: “’Making an argument for same-sex marriage necessarily entails supporting polygamy, polyamory, and incestuous marriage.’ No it doesn’t.”

      So now you admit that a definition of marriage that opens it to same-sex marriage does indeed allow polygamy, etc. You acknowledge that limiting it to 2 people is arbitrary. Are you satisfied with arbitrary laws? What if lawmakers arbitrarily decided all “non-scientists” should be prevented from commenting on blogs?

      In fact sociological research does show that polygamy is harmful, especially to the women in those relationships. It also shows that children reared in same-sex households fair more poorly in school and have less success in careers as adults than their counterparts reared by heterosexual couples. In spite of such research, your limitation of 2 people in your definition of marriage is admittedly arbitrary and probably based on tradition more than anything else.

      “Inherently ordered to procreation” does not require procreation. The idea is that marriage at a foundational level provides the mechanism for procreation to take place (a man and a woman). Inherently ordered is much different than required. The definition is a single unit. Taking the pieces apart does not work because all of it is part of the definition.

      On the revisionist understanding of marriage, yes, many people even view heterosexual marriages that way. It creates a problem for them as well. The prevalence of divorce in our culture is an example of how people have begun to adopt an emotional understanding of marriage. Even government recognizes the divorce rate as a problem–that is why states are enacting incentives for people to have marriage counseling prior to marriage and making it harder to get divorced in some states.

      1. “So now you admit that a definition of marriage that opens it to same-sex marriage does indeed allow:

        “Entails” and “allows” are different words with different meanings. Since you’re big on definitions, I thought you’d realize that. Sorry.

        “Are you satisfied with arbitrary laws?”

        Sometimes. It all depends on why it’s arbitrary. As the number of people who would want to have polygamous marriages is much smaller than the admittedly small number of people who want to have homosexual marriages, it may never come up. If it does…how would it impact me, exactly?

        “What if lawmakers arbitrarily decided all “non-scientists” should be prevented from commenting on blogs?”

        Then they’d be preventing my freedom of speech. That law wouldn’t be arbitrary, it would be unconstitutional.

        “In fact sociological research does show that polygamy is harmful, especially to the women in those relationships.”

        When the woman has no choice, I agree completely. But that is also true of heterosexual marriages where the woman has no choice.

        Show me a polygamous marriage in which all members are involved of their own free will…not forced either implicitly or explicitly. And then show me that causes harm.

        ” It also shows that children reared in same-sex households fair more poorly in school and have less success in careers as adults than their counterparts reared by heterosexual couples.”

        Please, show me the studies that show this. I’d love to read them.

        Every study I have read that shows children actually raised on consensually formed same-sex households shows that they are comparable to all other children.

        The one study I’ve read that said different defined a ‘same-sex household’ as one where the parents had a heterosexual marriage and one of them cheated with a member of their same sex. Which is not comparable at all.

        “at a foundational level provides the mechanism for procreation to take place”

        No. It involves it. It in no way provides it.

        Same-sex marriages have the same issues as straight marriages. But that in no way means they shouldn’t be allowed.

  7. The allowance is logically entailed by the definition. The attempted logical consistency of American law would ultimately require the legalization of polygamy, polyamory, and incest. Sorry if my wording was not clear enough.

    An arbitrary law can be made constitutional through an arbitrary amendment. Laws, however, should not be arbitrary. They should be based in fact or some philosophical foundation. If you want to get specific about definitions, constitutional laws and arbitrary laws are not mutually exclusive as you imply. Case in point, every part of the constitution that has been struck or amended (including prohibition).

    There’s a great story from ABC with an interview from a polygamous relationship. It is actually one woman and two men. Watch the interview and tell me if one of the men is not “healthy” in that relationship. Sure it may be anecdotal evidence, but it very well could be suggestive of the reality of those relationships. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/meet-real-life-modern-family-dads-mom-baby-15286512

    Here is another article on the detriments of polygamy for society, men, women, and children. http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/05/5338/

    You referenced Regnerus’ study. As you are probably aware, all accusations about his research were shown to be false. The president of the University of Texas actually encouraged more research in that area. Yes, most of his families had been heterosexual at one point; however, the vast majority of children raised in homosexual households came about through a similar process. Are you saying that those people are not actually homosexual? I know people who could be described that way, and they would adamantly disagree with a bisexual label.

    The entire marriage code in the US is built upon the idea that marriage is ordered to procreation. Inheritance laws, custody laws, etc must all be re-written with a new definition of marriage. Does that mean an entire system of law was completely arbitrary? I argue it was not. Instead, it was based on natural law.

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