Congressional Spouse?

CNN.com has posted a video highlighting the lives of two Congressional spouses. One is the wife of Republican freshman from Utah Jason Chaffetz. The other is the gay partner of Democrat freshman from Colorado Jared Polis. They compare/contrast how the conservative father of three Chaffetz and the liberal Polis live and work.

At one point in the video, Polis’ partner describes a story in which he tells how he lost his wallet (in it was his Congressional “spouse” card), sought help from Congressional Member Services to obtain a new one, but was told his designation as a “spouse” was a mistake—that his title should have been “designee” as all other gay partners are. Polis’ partner then goes on to point out the discrimination in our nation against gay people.

What’s interesting to note is that Colorado does not allow same sex couples to marry. Even domestic partnerships are limited (marriage is not allowed, common-law marriage is not allowed, but civil unions are allowed). So Polis and his partner are not, in fact, spouses, but are partners. Even Polis’ Wikipedia page calls them “Domestic Partners.” (Polis’ Congressional site and biography mention nothing about his partner.)

Just so we’re clear, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines spouse as “a marriage partner; a husband or wife.” Therefore, it would make sense that only those married couples are spouses. Those with domestic partnerships are partners.

So why is CNN calling him a spouse if he is not? CNN has historically referred to a person based on their legal status rather than their spiritual/personal/marital status. So why the difference now? Now don’t get me wrong, I am not discriminating again gay people. Make them domestic partners and give them rights and freedoms like other Americans. But let’s not call them spouses until they are legally married.

Maybe CNN needs to better choose their words.