Henry Heller is a Maryland state legislator who is attempting to institute a first cousin marriages ban. I’m not sure, but I think that the fact that its legal for first cousins to marry in Maryland might be news to Maryland. Regardless, Heller says that he wants couples to stop playing ‘genetic roulette’ by having offspring with close relatives.
Heller is a Democratic delegate, otherwise known as a state representative, who is a retired special education administrator. His previous career may have something to do with his sensitivity to the issue of the genetic complications that children conceived though the union close relatives often have. He says that children of first cousins are at an increased risk of being born with birth defects. This assertion has been supported by scientific data for many years.
Interestingly, Heller says that he wants to bring Maryland ‘into the enlightened world of other states such as West Virginia and Arkansas’. While the thought that Maryland might be less enlightened than West Virginia or Arkansas is a little unnerving, those two states do have laws that prohibit unions of first cousins.
Currently, only 24 of our 50 states prohibit marriages between first-cousins.
Henry Hiller’s first cousin marriages ban bill would make an exception for people over 65-years of age or who are infertile as he is only concerned about these couples procreating. He says he doesn’t see a problem with those marriages if they are only for companionship.
As I said before, it might be news to Maryland residents that first-cousin marriages are not already banned. It might also be news to them that Henry Hiller considers West Virginia and Arkansas more enlightened than Maryland.