Defense of Marriage Act and Not Recognizing Married First Cousins

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December 11, 2009 by D Stack

The Defense of Marriage Act indicates that the Federal government considers marriage to only be between one man and one woman. It also states that no state be forced to recognize the same-sex marriage of another state.

I was poking around the internet today and came across the 2006 Tennessee Marriage Amendment. Its explanatory text states:

The historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state. Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman is contrary to the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee. If another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry and if such marriage is prohibited in this state by the provisions of this section, then the marriage shall be void and unenforceable in this state

This is not atypical language for such amendments so I’m not picking on Tennessee exclusively.

As a citizen of Massachusetts, part of me thinks we’ll gladly take the tax dollars of same-sex couples, whether as tourists or residents. And we’ve had same-sex marriage for over five years with the lowest divorce rate of any state whereas Tennessee, made “safe” for traditional marriage has one of the highest divorce rates (in line with the lower rates in the Northeast US vs. the South). However, it really bothers me that same-sex couples from my state who travel to Tennessee will find themselves stripped of legal rights. Get in a car accident while driving through the state? Sorry, you no longer have the right to make medical decisions for your incapacitated spouse because we think your marriage is “icky”.

This is the same logic that was applied to mixed race marriages. For example, at the time Barack Obama’s parents married, there were several states that would forbid their marriage.

So I’m thinking that we should start applying this to other restrictions that states impose. For example, Tennessee, like Massachusetts,  allows first cousins to marry. Arkansas does not. So, Arkansas, if it’s not already on your books, I think you must pass a law blocking recognition of marriage between first cousins. The institution must be made safe.

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December 2009
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