The New York Post today runs the provocative headline, "NY State blesses 'incest' marriage between uncle, niece."
The story gives the details:
The state’s highest court has toppled a cultural taboo — legalizing a degree of incest, at least between an uncle and niece — in a unanimous ruling.
While the laws against “parent-child and brother-sister marriages . . . are grounded in the almost universal horror with which such marriages are viewed . . . there is no comparably strong objection to uncle-niece marriages,” Tuesday’s ruling reads.
[The couple's lawyer, Michael Marszalkowski] said he won the case by zeroing in on the language of the state’s domestic-relations law.
The statute reads that “a marriage is incestuous and void whether the relatives are legitimate or illegitimate between either: 1. An ancestor and a descendant; 2. A brother and sister of either the whole or half blood; 3. An uncle and niece or an aunt and nephew.”
Marszalkowski determined that as a matter of consanguinity, or blood relations, half-uncles and nieces share the same level of genetic ties as first cousins — or only one-eighth the same DNA.
There is a lot to unpack here.
It is noteworthy that, while the lawyer cites DNA and genetic ties as reasoning, the judge's decision speaks not of such things but of "almost universal horror" and "strong objection[s]" - terminology which does not seem very scientific.
In terms of the Judge's own ruling, then, it seems fair to appeal to common sense and imaginative thought experiment. Ask any ordinary man-in-the-street how he might feel if his grown daughter married one of his brothers; or ask a mother if she would be happy if her 18-year-old son decided to move in with her sister: it seems likely that "strong objections" would not be difficult to come by.
The story goes on to quote from a "family law expert" named Michael Stutman who offers this analysis:
[Stutman] said the ruling is in synch with today’s modern families.
“As people are more mobile and living longer marriages are ending and people remarry and you get blended families with step children and half children,” Stutman reasoned.
“There are plenty of other societies that allow so-called intermarriage without worrying about genetic defects. And frankly we have a long history of cousins marrying each other, take FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt,” he said.
[The Post author points out, somewhat humorously, that FDR and Eleanor were not first cousins, much less uncle and niece, but fifth cousins once removed!]
But what is really stunning in this situation - and relevant to the matter of the legal redefinition of marriage that has become a fad of late - is how the question seems first of all to be about the feelings and thoughts of adults more than anything else.
Granted that the lawyer for the couple did argue from DNA evidence that the offspring of such a couple could be genetically sound, there's a logical gap here that begs a question: Aren't there other measures of children's welfare and happiness than genetics alone? One might easily imagine that there would be other effects - social, psychological, etc. - upon children in such a situation that could be considered alongside cold genetic analysis.
The bottom line is this, though: Once marriage is redefined to make it just an emotional relationship between two adults – as occurred in NY to satisfy the demands of same-sex couples – then there is simply no logical way in the law to not allow incestuous marriages or limit it to two people.
This ruling, even though we might meet it with 'strong objections,' is unfortunately only to be expected. And it will only get worse from here.