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Pennsylvania’s Master of Analogy

Same-sex marriage is all the rage in Pennsylvania politics these days, as it is in many places. Now that New Jersey appears to be on its way to legalizing same-sex marriage via their superior courts, the Keystone state will have the distinction of being the only Northeastern state that bans our gay friends from tying the knot. Though even Pennsylvania’s ban is in a precarious state. As the Atlantic Wire notes, “A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in the federal challenge to the state’s gay marriage ban, which has been on the books since 1996.” The state’s attorney general, however, has flat out refused to defend the same-sex marriage ban.

Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Corbett, on the other hand, had his lawyers working hard to stop the wily gays and their legal tricks. In late August, the state’s attorneys submitted a brief to invalidate marriage licenses that Montgomery County clerks had been issuing to same-sex couples. As part of the argument, Corbett’s lawyers wrote, “Had the clerk issued marriage licenses to 12-year-olds in violation of state law, would anyone seriously contend that each 12-year-old . . . is entitled to a hearing on the validity of his ‘license’?” An inexact analogy, to be sure, and one that drew some heat to old Corbett and his lawyers.

This morning, Governor Corbett went on CBS21 of Harrisburg, Pa., to talk to his constituents. The interviewer mentioned the August comments and the governor’s subsequent apology on behalf of his legal team. The analogy about the twelve-year-olds was totally inappropriate, he agrees, so he’d like to share a much better, completely inoffensive, and more apt one instead:

CORBETT: “I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don’t you?”

INTERVIEWER: [pausing] “I don’t know. I’m gonna leave the comments to you and your team.”

The star of this clip is definitely CBS21 of Harrisburg anchor Sherry Christian, who has one of the greatest “Ha ha. Holy shit. Did that just happen?” reactions in recent memory. She laughs nervously and stumbles over her words: “But, you did say it was inappropriate and you have a better phrasing that you think . . . ”

Corbett’s team has since issued yet another apology for this even worse replacement analogy. In a statement, the governor says:

During a recent interview, I was asked to comment on the ruling by Judge Pellegrini that the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts did not have the power to decide the constitutionality of state laws.

My words 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.

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.

What a shame the governor didn’t try his hand at letting loose another analogy, since he’s clearly such a master wordsmith. He could’ve compared same-sex marriage to, for example, the relationship between Catherine the Great and her boyfriend, the horse.