Corbett compares same-sex unions to sibling marriage
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett on Friday compared same-sex marriage as equivalent under the law to the marriage of brothers and sisters, stirring up the debate on gay unions in the state.
The Republican governor, whose approval ratings have been low and who is up for reelection next year, made the comments during an interview with WHP-TV in Harrisburg, after being asked about a controversial statement his lawyers had made over the summer on gay marriage.
During the interview, which was taped Monday and aired Friday morning, Corbett called "inappropriate" a statment his attorneys made in an August court filing. In the filing, the attorneys wrote that gay marriage is against Pennsylvania law, just as marriage is between children.
The governor then told the news station that he thought "a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don't you?"
In a statement issued later, Corbett said his remarks were not intended to offend anyone, and apologized if they did.
"I explained that current Pennsylvania statute delineates categories of individuals unable to obtain a marriage license," the governor said. "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."
He added: "The constitutional question is now before a federal court and that is the venue in which same-sex couples wishing to legally marry have standing to intervene and be heard. Same-sex marriage is an important issue and the question of its legal status is one that will be heard and decided upon its merits, with respect and compassion shown to all sides."
Ted Martin, executive director for the advocacy group Equality PA, called Corbett's initial comments "shocking and hurtful."
"We invite him to participate in a conversation with same-sex couples to talk about why marriage matters to all Pennsylvania families," said Martin, whose group advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians.
Democrats seeking their party's nomination to challenge Corbett in 2014 also denounced the governor's broadcast remarks.
"Gov. Corbett's continued hateful rhetoric regarding same-sex marriage is unacceptable and an insult to thousands of gay and lesbian Pennsylvanians who simply want equality," U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz said in a statement.
"Gov. Corbett's remarks comparing marriage equality to marriage between siblings is hateful and demeaning," York businessman Tom Wolf said in a separate statement.
Added onetime state Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty: "Tom Corbett owes an apology to the people of Pennsylvania. He has a history of making demeaning and insulting remarks towards Pennsylvanians of all walks of life, but even for Tom Corbett today's remark is shockingly offensive. It's more proof we need a new governor who respects every Pennsylvanian."
John Hanger, also a former state secretary of Environmental Protection, took it a step further, asserting that Corbett's comments are "beneath the dignity of the office of governor, and quite frankly, disqualify him from holding that office."
The governor's comments came just a day after two state legislators - Democratic Reps. Steve McCarter and Brian Sims of Philadelphia - introduced a bill to permit same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. And Montgomery County earlier this week appealed a state court order to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
McCarter, in a statement, said: "The issue of marriage equality is not a joke, and the governor's words only further demonstrate that he is out of touch with the majority of Pennsylvanians."
This is not the first time Corbett's remarks have stirred controversy.
When he was running for governor in 2010, he made headlines for suggesting there were jobs in Pennsylvania, but that many people preferred unemployment benefits. Earlier this year, he also suggested Pennsylvania employers couldn't find workers who had passed a drug test.
Last year, Corbett also sparked a firestorm when he said women could "just close [their] eyes," when asked about bill that would force women seeking an abortion to undergo fetal ultrasounds.
Contact Inquirer staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or email@example.com, or on Twitter @AngelasInk.