In some countries (and 30 states of the USA), Cathy and I would have been prevented from marrying. In fact, even though we are happily married after 31 years and have two wonderful daughters, in some countries (and some states of the USA) our getting married would have been a criminal offence and it would have been illegal for us to cohabitate or have sexual relations.
A while ago, one of Jasmine’s teachers said that relationships like ours made her feel ill. She wasn’t referring to our relationship (as she doesn’t know our dark secret) and I’m sure that if she got to know us better, she might revise her opinion, but she made this comment in front of the whole class while Jasmine was in the room.
When we said we were getting married, some people were quite concerned (one relation didn’t acknowledge our marriage until a few years later) and people were worried about the implications for any children we had.
Colleagues have recommended that I don’t let other people know about my relationship in some work contexts (including working with some communities and in prison).
My parents deliberately hid our relationship from some of their friends and acquaintances (even though they were delighted we were getting married).
Marriages like ours have been described as being “animal-like behavior” that had been “discarded by civilized people” and as posing a “potential disruption of family order” (Ottenheimer, 1990, p. 329). They have been banned because of fears that it bad for children and that it can lead to health problems.
For many years the Catholic Church banned marriages like ours and even today our marriage is forbidden by “ecclesiastical law” (i.e., laws made by the Church) but not “divine law” (i.e., made by God) so we would have had to apply for a dispensation (CatholicEchange.com).
Our crime? We’re first cousins—our fathers are brothers.
Fortunately we were allowed to marry in Australia and the chances of genetic problems for our children were quite low.
I don’t think anybody who knows us would argue that we should have been prevented from expressing our love through marriage.
I don’t think anybody who knows our children would say they have suffered from having cousins for parents (except maybe because of other people’s attitudes).
I don’t think anybody who knows us would support a law preventing us from being a family with full legal and religious recognition.
The national “survey” on same-sex marriage is about to start. I will be saying yes with no hesitation and hope there will be a resounding YES result because I do not want other people to be prevented from marrying the ones they love.
Cathy and my story tells us a number of things that are relevant to the current debate.
Marriage is not a fixed, unchanging institution. The people who are allowed, or not allowed, to marry has changed over time, and it varies from place to place. Yes, changing the definition of marriage to include people of the same sex is a big change, but it is OK to revise what we understand makes an appropriate marriage.
The fears (largely unfounded) of negative effects on children should not prevent us being married. The arguments that same-sex marriage is bad for children are also greatly exaggerated and the main harm to children of same-sex couples comes from the attitudes of others.
Marriage is about more than procreation. In some states of the USA cousins are allowed to marry if at least one of them is infertile or sterile. If the conservative argument that marriage is about procreation was consistently held, they would oppose this exemption.
I’m sure that many people who believe that Cousins shouldn’t marry would change their minds if they became friends with Cathy and me, and saw the strength of our relationship. I’m also sure that many people’s attitudes toward same-sex relationships change when they get to know a loving same-sex couple or if they discover one of their own children is gay or lesbian. Let’s not get in the way of acceptance and support of people with different experiences to our own.
It would have been a real shame if Cathy and I had been prevented from marrying because of outdated, ill-informed laws. I feel the same way about same-sex couples.
If you are compassionate and loving I hope you will say Yes to same-sex marriage. If you cannot in good conscience support the change, at least don’t stand in the way, and abstain from voting.
If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:
- An open letter to students about the postal survey on same-sex marriage
- Some good articles/links – same-sex parents
- The benefits of marriage – gays need not apply?
- Being a father
- Parenting for a better world
- Why I’ve gone rainbow-coloured
If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.
I feel very sad for your situation and I understand the love you feel with your 1st Cousing. I too feel in love with my Cousing when we first met for the first tine at the age of 10-11. I cried without knowing why when she left after visiting us from overseas. I didn’t know love and was too young to understand love but I can tell you that it was painful to me when she left that day. Her father is mother’s twin brother and the bond and love that we, my cousin and I , felt was so strong that it hit me like a ton of bricks , my first time feeling love for a girl and this girl was my cousin. We never kissed or did anything but I can tell you that just to be in her presence the attraction between us was stronger than anything I ever felt before, I’m very glad that nothing physical ever happened between us and if not for distance and our circumstances we would have being a couple and possibly marry thank God it Never happened to this day my love for my Cousing is more than just as a family member and a I’m very sad for you that your circumstances did not keep you apart, by some miracle your children are normal, so they seem, but you must know that it is very easy to fall in love with your own Jean pool the attraction to your own blood is stronger than any other person and I only hope that you didn’t know she was your own blood and genetic equal. No it’s not right and you were just very lucky that your children do not have genetic issues time hopefully never reveals this. I pray for you and wish you all the best especially for your children. There are times in life that doing the right thing is more important that follow your feelings please raise your children with the warning that there is a very string attraction to your own genetic blood relatives and you can feel love for them for ever, but should not make love to them ITS JUST NOT RIGHT TO INBREED EVER, ITS NOT WORTH THE RISK ITS MORE EXITING AND CHALLENGING TO FIND YOUR SOUL MATE IN THIS BEAUTIFUL DIVERSE WORLD WE LIVE IN!!
Thanks for your concern for us but, as you can guess, I do not agree with your comment. I will just say two things.
First, for most of history and in many cultures, cousins marrying is very common.
Second, we did see a doctor who specialised in genetics before marrying. A “normal” couple have around a 3% chance of a child with a genetic problem. As cousins we had around a 6% chance. So the risks were still very low.
Can I say me too and hear hear! Thank you for your post Graeme.
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Graeme – I have been a follower of your blog for some time whilst completing my PhD. I celebrate your insight and the way you share your knowledge through your Blog. I now celebrate your transparency and ability to be vulnerable without the need for apologising.
Thankyou for this post
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Thanks for that Jane!