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Bill that would make first-cousin marriage illegal in Tennessee passes, but not without a fight

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — A bill passed in the Tennessee House that would make it illegal to marry your first cousin in the state, but it did not pass without argument from one lawmaker who pushed an amendment to make it legal for cousins to marry each other if they first received genetic counseling.
The bill as amended by Rep. Gino Bulso, R-Brentwood, would prohibit first-cousin marriage unless the parties to the marriage contract received counseling from a genetic counselor licensed by the board of medical examiners. Bulso argued during a House floor session on Thursday the bill – as written – could violate the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court decision, which made same-sex marriage legal across the country.
Bulso, while explaining his reasoning, said the bill was introduced as a public health-related matter, adding the law needed to be passed to prevent cousins from getting married and conceiving a child that could have an increased risk for birth defects. Bulso argued two men who are first cousins could get married without the risk of conceiving a child with birth defects.
“Is there a public health issue with a male marrying a male first cousin? Obviously, I think the answer is no,” Bulso said, adding the enhanced risk for birth defects would also not be present for women who marry their first cousin. “A female and a female cannot conceive a child.”
Bulso argued – even then – the risk for birth defects is low, between 1.7% to 2.8% according to the Journal of Genetic Counseling. Therefore, marriage between first cousins should be legal if they first receive a consultation from genetic counselors, he said.
“There’s an additional risk, but it’s not as significant as some might be led to believe,” he said.
Quickly, Bulso’s proposed amendment was tabled.
“I would move to table this amendment that would allow first cousins to marry,” Nashville Rep. John Ray Clemmons said.
The bill banning marriage between first cousins was later passed in the House.
Two Republican lawmakers, Bulso and Rep. Monty Fritts, who represents Kingston, Tennessee, were the only legislators to vote down the bill.
The bill now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to be signed.
House Bill 2041 was initially filed for introduction by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory. Jernigan said this kind of marriage remains legal in Tennessee to this day due to a 1960 decision by Tennessee’s attorney general that marriage between first cousins did not violate a statute prohibiting marriage between relatives.
“I’m hoping in 2024 we can close this loophole,” Jernigan said.
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The post Bill that would make first-cousin marriage illegal in Tennessee passes, but not without a fight appeared first on East Idaho News.

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