The British Royalty, like many other royal families throughout history, has a long history of inter-family marriages (AKA cousins sleeping together to continue the "pure" bloodline for generations to come).
Though Queen Elizabeth II (Prince Philip is her third cousin) and her heirs no longer take part in cousin marriages, our friends across the pond still participate in inter-family marriages quite often, and you'll be surprised to hear that there aren't any legal ramifications. However, there can be some severe issues with keeping the bloodline "pure" as the Royals used to say.
While the practice is banned on the federal level and in 24 of 50 states over here in America, there are no official rules on the books in England, but that's not to say there still isn't a great deal of controversy surrounding the issue.
According to the Birmingham Live publication, there has been a "great deal of debate in the past few years in Britain about whether to discourage cousin marriages through government public relations campaigns or ban them entirely."
The issue has been festering amongst the population for more than a decade now when then-Environment Minister Phil Woolas sparked addressed the "elephant in the room" and said that "if you have a child with your cousin, the likelihood is there'll be a genetic problem."
But how damaging can it be the children that are a product of first-cousin relations?
When looking at the cultural side of the question of how damaging is first-cousin marriages, there's a great deal of stigma associated with the practice from those who don't agree with those who participate. It's similar to how it is in America - you get called gross, demented, weird, and 1,000 other demeaning adjectives.
"It's a form of discrimination that nobody talks about. People worry about not getting health insurance --- but saying that someone shouldn't marry based on how they're related, when there's no known harm, to me is a form of discrimination," writes Robin Bennett of the University of Washington in a Wired article on the subject.
The juror is still out on the health disadvantages of reproducing with your cousin.
In the Birmingham Live piece referenced at the top of the article, Mohammad Walji, a prominent British researcher says that inter-family marriage can be a "very significant" cause of infant death, with his practice even going as far as to produce informational leaflets.
This stigma of first-cousin marriages was initially supported by early studies into human genetics that showed that the "recessive" versions of a gene "were more likely to be expressed in children of genetically related parents, as well as more like to be defective," according to the Birmingham Live article.
However, in that same piece, Alan Bittles of the Centre for Comparative Genomics in Australia states that "the risk of birth defects rises from roughly two percent in the general population to four percent for first cousins and therefore that "it would be a mistake to ban it."
According to Bittles' research, the extra increase risk of death is 1.2 percent in children produced in first-cousin marriages, and the risk of birth defects rise from about 2 percent in the general population to 4 percent when the parents are related. While minimal, there still is a slight risk.
But enough about the Brits and their ways of sleeping with their first cousins. Let's take a look at some facts about inter-family relations here in the land of freedom, the United States of America. While we have a lot of liberties over here, we don't necessarily have the right to marry our first cousins innearly half of the 50 states.
In the picture below, first-cousin marriages are allowed in the dark blue states and marriages with certain exceptions are legal in lighter blue states. The practice is against the law in dark red states, banned in the red states, and banned with exceptions in the light red states. There are some states (the states with dark red and light red lines) recognize first-cousin marriages if they were performed outside of those states.
This means that despite Arkansas getting a bad rap for cousin loving, you can't actually marry your cousin in "the Natural State."
So while you can be "kissing cousins" like George Michael and Maeby from "Arrested Development" in some states, it's best that you just leave the whole cousin loving thing alone if you want to avoid slight health issues for your children and severe judgment from those around you.
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