Open-records chief slams Corbett over gay-marriage remark

Terry Mutchler
Terry Mutchler
Posted: October 09, 2013

HARRISBURG - Terry Mutchler, the state's highest-ranking openly gay official, has found herself biting her lip more than once over comments coming from Gov. Corbett or his administration since he took office in 2011.

First, she said, as a woman, she was offended by Corbett's remark that women who would be forced under proposed legislation to undergo ultrasounds before an abortion could "just close your eyes."

Then there was his legal team's comparison in a court brief of gay marriage to underage people's getting wed.

But for Mutchler, executive director of the Office of Open Records, the final straw came last week, when Corbett said same-sex marriage was the equivalent under the law to the marriage of a brother and sister.

"When the governor compared gay marriage to incest, and did so with a bit of a smirk, I felt compelled to speak," Mutchler said in a speech to archivists Monday at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

In her first public comments since Corbett's television interview Friday, Mutchler called his analogy "very sad" and said his apology hours later was "halfhearted."

"I find it sad that a governor - with a team of intelligent, thoughtful staff around him, some of whom are gay - has such a basic misunderstanding and, more distressing, an overt meanness about any issue, let alone a human-rights issue," she told the group.

The broadcast touched off a fresh round of debate on gay unions in the state, and shortly afterward, Corbett issued a statement apologizing to "anyone who was offended" and said he was thinking with his "legal head" when he spoke.

When asked to respond to Mutchler's statement, Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni said Monday that "the governor's apology was sincere."

Mutchler was the leadoff speaker at a meeting of 200 state archivists discussing the state's open-records law. She said she felt compelled to go off topic at the end of her 50-minute speech to address a controversial issue that hit close to home.

Mutchler, who is in a committed relationship but is not married, said that Corbett had a right to his personal views, but that as the leader of the commonwealth, he had a responsibility to unite citizens, "not further inflame the issue."

"There is no easy way out of the forest on gay marriage," Mutchler said after her speech. "I personally believe the governor needs to help us get through it, not add fuel to the fire."

Mutchler was appointed by Gov. Rendell in 2008 as the state's first director of the Office of Open Records. Her six-year term ends next year.

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