Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett compared gay marriage to sibling incest during an interview with a local TV station Friday.
The Republican governor was responding to a question from WHP-TV on a court filing his administration’s lawyers had made that compared gay marriage to child marriage. Incest was really the better comparison, the governor replied.
“It was an inappropriate analogy, you know,” Corbett said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?”
Pennsylvania state law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and Corbett said he didn’t believe a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn that statute belonged in the courts.
“The Supreme Court left it up to the states to determine under their laws as to what is and isn’t a marriage,” said Corbett. “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 later issued a statement after his comments saying they “were not intended to offend anyone. If they did, I apologize.”
“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,” said Corbett. “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.”
It’s not the first time Corbett has faced backlash over wayward remarks. In May, Democrats seized on his response to a question about whether he had any Latino staff members. “No, we do not have any staff members in there. If you can find us one, please let me know,” Corbett joked. And Corbett has also had to explain his reasoning that the state’s high unemployment was due to potential workers failing drug tests.
His latest gaffe might leave a bigger opening for the Democrats in a state grappling with gay marriage. The state’s ban faces a federal court challenge–and Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has refused to defend the ban, which she found to be “wholly unconstitutional.” Meanwhile, a local county clerk began issuing marriage licenses to more than 150 gay couples after the Supreme Court struck down federal ban, DOMA, or the Defense of Marriage Act.
Corbett, the state’s former attorney general, was elected in the 2010 GOP landslide by 10 points, but has seen his approval ratings dramatically drop over the past three years, and is arguably the most vulnerable Republican governor in the country. A Pennsylvania Quinnipiac University poll put his job approval rating at just 35%. He trails his closest Democratic challenger, Rep. Allyson Schwartz, by 10 points, and voters, but a 52%-32% margin say he doesn’t deserve to be re-elected.
While Pennsylvania is a crucial swing state, after 2010, it’s trended Democratic. President Obama won the state 52%-47%, and also carried the state by 10 points in 2008. In 2012, Democratic Sen. Bob Casey was also re-elected, 54%-45%.
Even Republicans are privately worrying about Corbett’s difficulty in keeping the state in GOP hands next year. National Journal reported in July many GOP insiders are bracing for a ”historic landslide [loss]” and are even rooting that he won’t end up running.