Cousin "It": We Now Pronounce You Cusband And Wife

Despite American taboos, cousins are marrying each other in states where it's legal, and, with the help of studies that show little risk to their offspring, they're starting to come out of the shadows, with sometimes heartbreaking results.

Anna N.'s post title earlier today, 5 Tips for Dating Your Family, was just a joke, of course, but in the Home and Garden section (of course!) of the New York Times this weekend, the practice of American cousins marrying each other is a trend a serious matter.

The gist of the piece is that while marriage between first cousins is widely practiced, and even favored, in many cultures throughout history, here in the U.S. it's still seen as a trashy, hillbilly practice that results in inbred babies. Texas banned cousin to cousin marriage in 2005, though it was part of a larger law banning polygamy. Aside from the cultural stigma of cousin marriage, even doctors who are generally not against it admit that there are higher risks for the offspring of such unions that vary from couple to couple.

The story features several couples with varying degrees of community acceptance. Kimberly and Shane Winters are comfortable enough to display in their home a photo of themselves embracing with the word "cousins" on top and the phrase "the most important thing in life is family" along the bottom, which makes Kimberly's mother uncomfortable but is a pretty funny joke if they did it as a joke (another hint that the Winters might have a sense of humor about their unusual union: Kimberly calls Shane her "cusband.") But another couple, Bob and his wife from upstate New York, have a more heartbreaking tale:

They now have two daughters, 13 and 14, who are in good health, he said, but her parents - his aunt and uncle - refuse to speak to them.

The couple, who live on a military base, have advised their daughters not to tell friends that their parents are cousins.

"We don't typically tell folks," Bob said. "We told our daughters, ‘It's not something to be ashamed of, but if you tell your friends, your friends may trust you today, you may be good friends, however, roll the clock forward, people are fickle, and preteens and teens can be downright cruel.' "

Shaking Off the Shame [NYT]