Chicago Tribune: Keeping marriage all in the family Steve Chapman
Much of the world, particularly the Middle East, regards marriages between first cousins as no big deal. In some places, according to a 2002 article in the Journal of Genetic Counseling, "20 to 60 percent of all marriages are between close biological relatives." Charles Darwin, Queen Victoria, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Albert Einstein all married first cousins. A friend of mine met two Iraqi men who said they got grief for marrying outside the family. But in this country, many people see consanguineous unions as unhealthy, unnatural or un-Christian. The original point of laws barring first cousins from marrying was to avoid genetic defects in their offspring. But science has allayed most of the fears. That article in the Journal of Genetic Counseling, written by a panel of scientists, reported that the risk of serious birth defects for children of ordinary married couples is from 3 to 4 percent. The risk for children of first-cousin couples is higher by as much as 2.8 percent--which means the odds against it are no worse than 15 to 1.When Rick Santorum rather innocently pointed out that gay marriage could be used as a lever for polygamy and incest, he was attacked and insulted. Now Chapman advocates marriage among cousins. We've come a long way baby.