Corbett’s incest remarks: Was he actually trying to be sensitive?
If anyone’s gotten used to apologizing for making stupid comments, it’s Gov. Corbett. Over the past two-and-a-half years, he’s managed to insult women, the LGBT community, the poor, and just about everyone’s sense of decency in his oddly-timed and weird public remarks.
Most recently, he was asked by CBS 21 Harrisburg’s Sherry Christian about his law team comparing LGBT marriage equality to two 12-year-olds tying the knot, and he admitted that was a bad analogy. Then he made a worse one.
“I think a much better analogy would have been a brother and sister, don’t you?” he asked the newscaster during an interview which aired Friday.
After a long morning of media melee, Corbett issued one of those political apologies, in which the offender is sorry “if” he offended anyone. But wait: he did not mean to offend anyone. (So, is he really sorry?)
“My words were not intended to offend anyone. If they did, I apologize,” he said in a statement. “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.”
I’ve read some theories about why Corbett acted the way he did during the interview, and have seen some analyses of the remarks (this well thought-out piece at Newsworks argues Corbett was attempting, and failing, to make a joke), but I’ve got a theory of my own: He actually thought comparing marriage equality to incest was sensitive.
When Corbett’s legal team came out with their statement about “12-year-olds,” one of the most obvious pieces of criticism was that pre-teens do not have the ability to make well-informed decisions on who they want to, and will, marry. That’s why they are not legally allowed to do it.
And the legal argument for the comparison is just this: underage marriage is illegal; same-sex marriage is illegal. They’re both illegal.
But this particular comparison was offensive for obvious reasons. The administration heard the outrage. And they apologized. The governor personally noted the remark was inappropriate.
So, when directly asked about the analogy by Christian, I believe, he attempted to find a middle ground somewhere between admitting the 12-year-old comment was inappropriate and reinforcing his stance that he still believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. That he failed miserably is beside the point.
Corbett didn’t, of course, give an age of said brother and sister; he merely said “brother and sister,” who could be two consenting, legally-aged adults who may be in love but cannot legally get married.
The governor’s apology, I believe, helps prove this theory. He claims he used the sibling example as something that’s “defined in state law” as being illegal, which is why he believed that particular comparison was appropriate.
But guess what else is defined in state law? The legal age to get married. Pennsylvania’s legal marriage age is 18. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds can get married with a parental or custodial guardian’s consent.
Which means, according to the governor’s apology’s rationale, both the tween and incest analogies are legally appropriate. The only reason, I believe, he could have claimed incest is less offensive is because the brains of two people in an incestuous relationship can be fully-formed.
Maybe the governor was attempting, in one of the most tone-deaf manners I’ve ever seen, to tell the LGBT community and their allies that he understands it’s possible to have a same sex attraction, but it’s illegal to turn that attraction into marriage, and his administration will defend that particular law.
Or, you know, he was just being a dick.
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