State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Corbett: gay marriage like sibling marriage, not child marriage

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 4, 2013 8:35 AM
Thumbnail image for Corbett0506.JPG

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

In an effort to distance himself from one controversy, Gov. Corbett backed into another.

The Associated Press reports the governor compared gay marriage to marriage between brother and sister this morning on a Harrisburg TV talk show. He was disavowing the language used in a legal brief filed by his legal team, which is defending Pennsylvania's gay marriage ban in state and federal court. The brief compared same-sex marriage to the marriage of 12-year-olds because both situations are outlawed in Pennsylvania.

"It was an inappropriate analogy, you know," Corbett said. "I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don't you?"

To this, anchor Sherry Christian said “I don’t know. I don’t know. Um, yeah, I’m going to leave the comments to you and your team.” (Pennsylvania Democrats have posted video.)

A spokesperson for the governor could not be immediately reached for comment.

The governor issued a written statement "in response to same-sex marriage comment" -- that is to say, in response to his own comment.

"My words were no intended to offend anyone. If they did, I apologize," Corbett said in the statement. He went on:

I explained that current Pennsylvania statute delineates categories of individuals unable to obtain a marriage license. As an example, I cited siblings as one such category, which is clearly defined in state law. My intent was to provide an example of these categories.

The governor's press office also posted a video apology, in which Corbett explains his thought process:

I tried to give a difference as to what the law is. You know, I’ve always been a lawyer and I think with my legal head all the time. Being the politician is second nature, not first nature. 

"In a legal sense, he’s obviously right about the legality of siblings married," said Terry Madonna, Franklin & Marshall College pollster. "But there’s a human side, and a personal side, and that’s what the governor often fails to capture."

Corbett has provided fodder for his political opponents like this before, proving himself less than adroit when straying from the script to defend his positions. 

In April 2013, Corbett defended his record on creating jobs by offering reasons for the a state unemployment rate higher than the national average. He said drug use in the workforce has made it difficult for some sectors to fill vacancies. 

In March of 2012, he defended a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, saying that, strictly speaking, women wouldn't have to see what showed up on the screen. "You just have to close your eyes," Corbett said (video provided by PA Independent). Democrats still refer to the remark when they're making sideswipes at the governor, more than a year later.

In 2010, on the campaign trail, Corbett touched on the jobs issues again, saying that persistent unemployment was due in part to persistent laziness. "People don’t want to come back to work while they still have unemployment," he told witf, speaking of unemployment compensation checks. 

The headline of this post has been updated to reflect that Gov. Corbett compared same-sex couples to sibling couples. The earlier lead suggested he compared gay marriage to incest. In his interview with WHP-TV, he did not. 

This post has been updated to include further response from Gov. Corbett's office. 



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