One of the world’s leading news agencies has agreed to reverse its controversial decision to not refer to members of gay and lesbian married couples as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’.

Associated Press (AP) came under fire after an internal memo stated that: “Generally AP uses couples or partners to describe people in civil unions or same-sex marriages”.

It indicated that members of same-sex couples who are married or in civil unions should not be referred to as husbands or wives unless, AP said, “those involved have regularly used those terms”.

The memo caused outrage within the LGBT community as it suggested that legal same-sex relationships were not on the same level as heterosexual married couples.

The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association called out AP for its “double standard,” while John Aravosis of AMERICAblog questioned: “Is that AP’s standard for straight couples too?  Only call straight people husband and wife if the couple calls themselves husband and wife?”

Michelangelo Signorile, Editor at Large of HuffPost Gay Voices, said “AP is taking the side of those who claim that marriages of gay couples performed and legally binding in nine states and the District of Columbia are not legitimate.”

On Thursday, AP clarified the issue by updating its style guidelines, which are  referenced by its reporters as well as other journalists around the world, to include ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ as acceptable terminology for gay people in a legal marriage.

“Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognised marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested,” reads the new entry.

“The new official entry in the AP Stylebook is a welcomed change,” said Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

“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.”

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