On Oct. 4, Corbett appeared on CBS 21 with Sherry Christian. In the interview, Christian confronted Corbett on remarks made in August by his administration, comparing marriage licenses for same-sex couples to licenses issued to 12-year-olds.
Corbett, who apologized on behalf of his administration for those comments, told Christian that he believed a better analogy would have been “between brother and sister.”
And the backlash was immediate.
“It was an incredibly poor choice of words and it really horrified people and made people feel uncomfortable,” said Equality Pennsylvania executive director Ted Martin. “I am based in Harrisburg, I live in a more conservative part of the state and I had people coming up to me saying, ‘What was he thinking?’”
Corbett immediately issued an apology, saying his words were “not intended to offend” and said he used the comparison as a legal example.
“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,” he said.
Corbett is being sued in several different cases regarding the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, which he referenced in his apology.
“The question of [the] legal status [of same-sex couples] will be heard and decided upon its merits, with respect and compassion shown to all sides,” the governor said.
LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair Rep. Dan Frankel (D-23rd Dist.) added that Corbett’s apology did little to repair the damage done by his comment, and the way in which it was delivered.
“Pennsylvania needs marriage equality and protection from discrimination for LGBT residents,” Frankel said. “Same-sex marriages are nothing like incestuous relationships and discrimination isn’t a laughing matter for the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who are denied rights and responsibilities of civil marriage, which are now available to them in 13 states and the District of Columbia,” he said in a statement.
Martin said he hopes this experience prompts Corbett to explore LGBT issues.
“I challenged him to sit down with LGBT families to understand. He is the governor and he has a unique opportunity to do that as a person,” he said.
Corbett is up for re-election in 2014 and faces a tough battle, with polls largely showing high disapproval ratings among Pennsylvania residents.
Martin added that anything that makes people question Corbett’s judgment could be detrimental to his re-election.
LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th Dist.), who is spearheading a marriage-equality bill in the Senate, suggested that the correct analogy would have been between same-sex couples and Corbett’s own marriage, or that of any other heterosexual couple.
“The majority of Pennsylvanians realize this,” Leach said. “We support marriage equality, and those who do not still have a basic respect for people involved.”