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Monday February 18, 2019

Final Thoughts


Looking at the number of states that ban cousin marriages in the USA, one can easily conclude that most states prohibit cousin marriages. If we consider the population of each state, however, we find that most people in the U.S. can marry their cousin.

How close is too close to marry? This elementary question has a tremendous range of opinions along with strong emotional attachments. At one time, the Roman Catholic Church prohibited cousins to marry even if they were only sixth-cousins. Moreover, Pope Zacharia (A.D. 471) insisted that marriages were prohibited whenever any relationship could be traced.

Today, the opinion of cousin marriages is still a hot button topic. Even with science clearly on their side, cousins fight to be accepted by their family and, sometimes, ill-informed doctors and lawmakers.

Why shouldn't cousins be allowed to marry? Opponents of cousin marriage generally cite the Bible or genetic birth defects. As we have learned, the Bible loves cousin marriages. So what about birth defects? The facts show that first-cousins have the same increased risk of having a baby with birth defects as a woman over 30 or 35. If a lawmaker even thought of passing a law that would prohibit women from having children after they reach age 35, the lawmaker would be ran out of town. This is confirmation that marriage restrictions against cousins are based only upon faulty presuppositions and prejudice.

The map on the previous page perpetuates the cousin marriage myth. This map is not indicative of fact or reason. The states that prohibit cousin marriages should reconsider their marriage restrictions. Most of these laws were passed before modern genetic knowledge, and are in fact, baseless. Case in point: Maine now requires genetic counseling before allowing cousins to marry. The old law prohibiting cousins to marry was amended in 1987. New Hampshire based this on current findings. Requiring cousins to undergo genetic counseling is quite restrictive. Perhaps all couples should undergo genetic counseling before marriage, as non related couples have only a slightly lower chance of having birth defects anyway.

Genetic counseling is a valuable option for any couple concerned with birth defects. This begs the question: should genetic counseling be required for cousins as a prerequisite to marriage? If the purpose of such a requirement is to reduce the number of birth defects, the government should start by requiring genetic counseling for all couples that have an elevated chance of having children with birth defects. Cousin couples are a very small segment of our population with a slight increase risk; however, cousin couples appear to catch the brunt of our ill-informed lawmakers attempt to reduce birth defects. Marriage prohibitions and restrictions for cousin couples defy common sense.

The 31 states, which do not allow cousin marriages, are still in the dark ages. It is evident that states resist change to civil laws. Consider the law that prohibited interracial marriages:

Loving v. Virginia

Richard and Mildred Loving were married in 1958 in Washington D.C. because their home state of Virginia still upheld the anti miscegenation law which stated that interracial marriages were illegal. They were married, and then lived together in Caroline County, Virginia. In 1959 they were prosecuted and convicted of violating the state's anti miscegenation law. They were each sentenced one-year in jail, but promised the sentence would be suspended if they agreed to leave the state and not return for 25 years. Forced to move, they returned to Washington D.C. where, in 1963, they initiated a suit challenging the constitutionality of the anti miscegenation law. In March of 1966, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the law, but in June of 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled the law unconstitutional. Thus, in 1967 the 16 states which still had anti miscegenation laws on their books were forced to erase them.

I must liken cousin marriages to interracial marriages here. These types of marriage restrictions were born out of the Eugenics Movement. It's the movement that brought us segregation sterilization, strict immigration restrictions (i.e. cousin marriage restrictions), and finally the Holocaust. These laws were based upon "solid" science at the time and supported by top scientists..

Interracial marriages are still considered odd, and is another cultural taboo (in the US anyway) . The good news is that laws rooted in bigotry and ignorance can and must be changed! Perhaps laws banning cousin marriages are one of the laws that must be challenged as in the Loving v. Virginia case.

Love is an intoxicating gift. Love will cause people to do things they might not do normally. For instance, cousin & interracial marriages. Love sees through cultural boundaries. Love doesn't care what someone else may think. The "normal" boundaries seem insignificant when you are in love.

Everyone reading this has first-cousins in their family tree. If there were any truth to the myth of cousins and birth defects, we would all be in wheelchairs -- if we could figure out how to make them.
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