Kissing Cousins: A New Question of Discrimination In the Wake of New Studies

9780252065408As states grapple with limitations on same sex marriage, polygamy, and other moral legislation controversies, scientists may have introduced another areas of potential challenge: the ban on first cousins. The premise for barring first cousins was always based on rather shaky science. Now, scientists are challenging any medical or public policy basis for the prohibition — raising constitutional questions of why consenting adults can be barred from such marriages.

These studies may raise more interesting legal questions than medical questions.

Zoologists Hamish Spencer and Diane Paul are leading one such challenge to the medical and public policy assumptions behind the prohibition. Thirty-one states outlaw marriage between first cousins — making this country the most hostile to such marriages despite the fact that they are lawful in many countries. Most of these laws date back to legislation after the Civil War.
There is date on the impetus for these laws. In Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage, Kansas State University anthropologist Martin Ottenheimer argues that the bans were the result of now-discredited 19th century research on birth defects among children born to first cousins.

However, according to the National Society of Genetic Counselors, birth defects are only 2 to 3 percent more common in children born to first cousins than among the general population. That would not be enough to justify the ban — particularly given first cousin beyond the child bearing age.

Marriage is a protected area under the Constitution and the denial of such unions raises serious questions of equal protection, due process, and other constitutional rights.

For the Forbidden Relatives article, click here.

For the full story, click here.

24 thoughts on “Kissing Cousins: A New Question of Discrimination In the Wake of New Studies”

  1. State should not get involved in personal lives. Marriage laws are archaic and discriminatory. Marrying your first cousin raises the chance of a genetic mishap – but only very little. Scientifically non-related couples have more chance of an unhealthy offspring when conceiving after 35 years of age. Should this be a reason to stop someone from having a child after 35? Moreover, the chances of an unhealthy offspring depends on whether both father and mother is carrying the same defective gene – this possibility still exists in non-related couples, only a bit less. Marriage is more than just giving birth – it is an emotional bond, a lifelong association, a pledge to be together. If a couple is ready to tie the knot, none has any right to interfere. If anybody has a problem with such marriages, they should just suck up. They are free to their choice of marrying anybody as the like, so why try to impose your own views on others quoting unverified and biased scientific claims?

  2. Awesome issues here. I am very happy to peer your article.

    Thanks so much and I am taking a look forward to touch you.
    Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

  3. Gyges,

    Sorry I missed your joke. Even though you had to explain it, it’s still a good one! Hope you will play your music with wild abandon in the next year, (but maintain good order and discipline at church functions).

  4. Patty,

    Really I was hoping someone would get the whole “which came first the chicken or the egg?” joke. I know it was a bit obscure, but I like to pretend I’m witty every now and then.

    Setting that aside, there are a few things I probably know more then you about and beer is one, food history is probably another. There are several theories about the origin of eggnog, my favorite involves beer. The theory goes that it’s a descendant of the posset, which was sometimes made with ale. Germany has a similar desert known as Biersuppe (beer soup). Also Nog was slang for a type of strong Ale, I’m pretty sure some American Craft brewers have dubbed their creations nogs. Wikipedia will back me up on this, as well as this site


    Chicken beer is real, I think the recipe is in “The Home Brewers Bible,” but I could be wrong.

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