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Gov. Tom Corbett compares same-sex marriage to incest

October 4, 2013 - Ben Klein

By Mark Scolforo, Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett compared the marriage of same-sex couples to the marriage of a brother and sister during an appearance on a Friday morning TV news show, a remark that was quickly condemned by advocates involved in the state's ongoing battle over whether to allow gays to wed.

Corbett was on WHP-TV in Harrisburg when an anchor asked about a statement his lawyers made in a recent court filing, comparing the marriage of gay couples to the marriage of children because neither can legally wed in the state.

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

Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that allows neither gay marriage nor civil unions. Its ban on same-sex marriage is being challenged in federal and state courts.

Mark Aronchick, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in that case, called Corbett's remarks "insensitive, insulting and plainly wrong."

"In other words, some kind of incestuous relationship," Aronchick said. "He's just out of touch on this one. Gay people marry for the same reasons straight people do — to express their love and to declare their commitment before friends and family."

Later Friday, Corbett issued a statement saying his "words were not intended to offend anyone" and apologizing if they did. His office said the interview was taped Monday.

"I explained that current Pennsylvania statute delineates categories of individuals unable to obtain a marriage license," he 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 said the legal status of same-sex marriage will be decided with "respect and compassion shown to all sides."

Ted Martin of Equality Pennsylvania, which advocates on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, called the governor's remarks "shocking and hurtful."

Corbett, a former federal prosecutor and two-term state attorney general, also said he does not think such a challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriage belongs in federal court.

"The Supreme Court left it up to the states to determine under their laws as to what is and isn't a marriage," Corbett said. "The federal court shouldn't even be involved in this. But if they say they are, then they're going to make a determination whether the state has the right to determine that a marriage is only between a man and a woman and not between two individuals of the same sex."

Corbett's attorneys included a reference to children in a legal brief in August involving same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses. In the court filing opposing allowing same-sex couples to intervene in the state's lawsuit to bar a suburban Philadelphia county from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the lawyers made an analogy to a pair of 12-year-olds, saying if the children were issued a marriage license and tried to defend it in court, they wouldn't be taken seriously because the license was never valid.

Corbett later rejected that analogy, saying the case revolved around the question of whether a public official had "the authority to disregard state law based on his own personal legal opinion about the constitutionality of a statute."

A state judge sided with Corbett in that case, ordering the clerk to stop issuing the licenses.

A hearing on the federal challenge to the same-sex marriage ban is scheduled for Wednesday in Harrisburg.

Rep. Rapp

State Rep. Kathy Rapp echoed similar statements about gay marriage affecting children when she told the Bradford Era in May she supports the move "to amend the state's Constitution to define marriage as a "union between one man and one woman."

From the Bradford Era:

Rapp said in the 65th Legislative District, which includes part of McKean County as well as all of Warren and Forest counties, Judeo-Christian values are still important.

"I believe it's time for the people of Pennsylvania to be able to have a say on marriage," Rapp said. With the passage of the Constitutional amendment, "The people would have a voice in determining what is the definition of marriage in the state."

Similar legislation was considered "several sessions ago," Rapp said. "This is not new, but certainly it is being revisited due to the movement in Washington and the U.S. Supreme Court."

The gay marriage debate has been raging across the nation for several years, and two cases involving same-sex marriages and rights of same-sex married couples were argued before the Supreme Court. Decisions on both are expected late next month. Public support of gay marriage has been on the rise.

Locally, however, Rapp is citing conservative values and Judeo-Christian beliefs as the basis for her support of the proposed amendment.

While she has heard some criticism from people opposing the Metcalfe proposal, Rapp said she feels the amendment is warranted "for the sake of our children.

"We're being forced by the other side to go forward with this issue," she said. "If the Supreme Court tries to redefine marriage (to allow same-sex unions) that would open the door wide to anything. We need to take a stand and say marriage is between one man and one woman.

"I feel marriage is Biblical," she said. "The family was ordained by God Himself. I think when you have children, the optimal situation is to have a mother and a father."

 
 

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Blog Photos

This Wednesday, July 31, 2013 photo shows Gov. Tom Corbett at Dow Chemical's new research-and-development facility in Collegeville, Pa. Corbett compared the marriage of same-sex couples to the marriage of a brother and sister during an appearance on a morning TV news show, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. The Pennsylvania governor was on WHP-TV in Harrisburg speaking about gay marriage when an anchor asked about a statement his lawyers made in a recent court filing, comparing the marriage of gay couples to the marriage of children because neither can legally marry in the state. Corbett, a lawyer, former federal prosecutor and state attorney general, also said he does not think a pending legal challenge to Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage belongs in federal court. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

 
 
 
 

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