Republican Legislator Introduces Pro-Incest Bill!

|

It's all in the headline, folks.

National Review has a piece up titled "Howard Dean?s Incest Vote," that details how, 20 years ago as a Vermont state legislator, the yelping presidential also-ran voted for a bill designed to allow a 65-year-old woman marry her 85-year-old uncle.

"That's just one data point the Kerry campaign will doubtless want to consider in its calculations about what role to give the controversial former Democratic governor next week," intone the editors.

But the piece could easily have been given the headline I gave this post. After all, it was a member of the family values party that introduced the incest bill:

A Vermont legislator named Elizabeth Edwards introduced…[the] bill….Edwards, a Republican…figured that incest laws were primarily about preventing defective offspring, and her neighbors Ramona Crane and Harold Forbes were too old to bear children. "They're a super-neat couple who don't have any money, and they just have each other, and I think they should be able to get married if they want to," Edwards told United Press International for a February 23, 1983, story.

Hey guys, lighten up. It's not like Edwards was pushing gay marriage.

NEXT: Profiling the CAPPS-II Killer

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’d be interested to hear the libertarian take on this subject. Is the threat of defective offspring enough of a reason to prevent this sort of union? Or, more improtantly, is the risk of a coersive relationship too great to allow it? My quick answer is yes.

  2. The bill passed the state House 73-67 with Howard Dean, who was elected to the legislature in 1982, voting for the exemption from the incest laws. The bill went on to the Senate, where it met a firm rebuke. A Senate committee voted 5-0 not to take up the measure. The committee’s chairman, Republican Allen Avery, explained, “It’s setting a bad precedent. Once you do it for the Forbeses, you have to do it for others. There certainly is not any support among members of the Senate to deal with it.”

    In short, Dean was on the left-most fringe of this question even in liberal Vermont.

    A “left-most fringe” that includes a 14-vote majority in a 140-member House? I suppose that’s one way of putting it.

  3. Phil,

    So this is a “left” issue?

    Patriot,

    Who is being coerced here?

  4. No, Gary, I was criticizing NRO’s characterizing an issue that gained a 73-67 majority vote as “fringe-left.” That’s some fringe, that can get the majority!

    (It looks confusing because the line beginning “In short . . . ” should be in itals as well, but H&R’s shitty comment coding kills any HTML tags if you include a line break. In other news, I can’t count. “Six-vote majority,” not 14.)

  5. I loved Gillespie’s title much better than NRO’s 🙂

  6. Phil,

    Yes, I didn’t think that the last two sentences squared. 🙂

  7. Incest is best some say. Is that what they meant by ALL IN THE FAMILY? I tend not to support incestual marriage primarily for the defective offspring reason, but society does have it’s limits. If you let this old couple marry (niece and uncle)a precedent would be set

  8. “Patriot, Who is being coerced here?”

    Don’t you know, Gary? If we allow relatives to marry, then the government is going to force you to marry your parent/sibling/cousin/etc.

    Just like gay marriage is going to make all present marriages null and void and force you into a homosexual union.

    The traditional family MUST be preserved at all costs!

  9. Mark S:

    That’s not what I mean by coersion. I’m referring to the accessibility and influence that a relative can have on a younger relative (i.e. a creepy uncle). It is concievable that a familial relationship could naturally have a higher influence on a child than that of an acquaintance. I guess that is more of a statutory issue though.

    Either way this subject is creepy.

  10. Yes, incest should be strictly limited to Southerners and European Royalty.

    As a geneticist, the ‘mutant kid’ theory doesn’t really hold up that well. It’s the ‘ickyness’ factor more than anything.

    With journalism like this it’s little wonder that National Review has never made a cent of profit!

  11. Incest is OK as long as you keep it in the family.

    My other motto is:

    Masturbation is fine as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.

  12. vice is nice, incest is best, put your sister to the test………..

    Children should be obscene and not heard.

    What’s the first thing a Southern girl says after having sex for the first time?

    “Get offa me daddy, yer crushin’ my smokes.”

    Yep, even more tasteless than yesterday (or was that Monday?)

    Doc: Whaddya mean the ickyness factor? I learned that incest was the best way to produce birth defects known to man. Are you saying that’s all bunk?

    What about the genetically sex-linked hemophiliacs of the royal families?

    You just blew my lecture–the one where I explained to my son and his sister why they couldn’t get married when they grow up.

  13. Why are the NR people wasting their time on
    this ridiculous trivia? Jeez.

    If this is the best they can do on Howie then
    they are not working very hard.

    Jeff

  14. Dang it, you know what I meant…. 🙂 Just like the guy who said gays aren’t prohibited from getting married…………….

    I’m talking about the lecture where I explained to my son and my daughter why they couldn’t get married to EACH OTHER other when they grow up.

  15. TWC,
    Are you consenting for them to experiment with each other, just not to get married later on?

    Which reminds me: What do you call a 12 year old girl from Arkansas who can run faster than her brothers?

    A virgin.

  16. A young groom from Arkansas shows up on his daddy’s porch on his wedding night.
    “Son, Why ain’t choo at the Motel 6 with yer bride?”
    “Daddy, We was there, takin offn our clothes when she told me that she was a VIRGIN!”
    The boy’s father spit tobacco juice from the gap from his missing front tooth and said, “You done right by leavin her son. Ifn she ain’t good enough for her own kinfolk, she ain’t good enough for ours.”

  17. The Egyption royalty practiced incest a lot without any apparent ill effects. Of course, they were also masters at propaganda and revising history. The danger comes from familes that have a recessive genetic defect. If your families genes are fine, then no problem. With modern genetic testing, there’s no real danger.

    Likewise, cousin-cousin marriage only has about the same risk as pregnancy after 35 or so, and is quite common outside the US.

  18. Weren’t FDR and Eleanor cousins?

  19. Madog,

    I remember some pretty interesting (I thought so, anyway) stuff on inbreeding from a population genetics class I took several years ago. The danger of inbreeding is as you mentioned related to the presence of recessive genetic defects, and so it depends on how many of those recessive defects are floating around in a population. For a culture that has been practicing some degree of inbreeding for a long time, those defects have been to a greater extent purged over many generations, and so the threat of genetic disease is less. But a culture with a long history of outbreeding is likely to have more of those defects (because selective forces to remove them are weaker), so a sudden switch to inbreeding is more likely to cause problems.

    Essentially everyone in an outbreeding culture, you and me included, has some recessive gene(s) that would be harmful to some degree or lethal if they were present in two copies. They just tend to not matter much because each type of recessive gene is very rare in the population at large and you’re not likely to encounter the same type in a mate unless that mate is related to you. The other person has their own recessive genes that would be harmful in two copies, but they’re different than your recessives so nothing happens. And of course the degree of relatedness is important, because you’re more likely to share genetic material with your sister than with your cousin, and so on.

    I remember an estimate that people in such a culture have an average of 5-7 “effective” recessive lethal genes. That doesn’t necessarily mean there are 5-7 actual genes that would kill you if in two copies – it could be more genes with less serious individual effects that cumulatively have a comparable effect to a “lethal.” So the upshot is if you were inclined to take the vice president’s advice and go fuck yourself, there’s a good chance you’d run into some trouble with your offspring.

    There – how was that for answer overkill?

  20. Madog,
    Actually, there were quite a few birth defects in the Egyptian Royal family. That’s why they have the elongated skull, AKA the Doug Christie head, in the statues. Supposedly, King Tut was just a mess of genetic defects.

    The one royal family that I have ever heard that had significant amounts of inbreeding without any genetic repurcussions were the Incas.

  21. Oh I almost forgot:

    Incest, the game the whole family can play!

  22. If we legalize incest, the next step is gay marraige!

  23. I’d been practicing law for about 3 mos, in Michigan, when I got a phone call. The young man wanted to know whether it was legal in that state for he and his half-sister to marry. It seems they had been raised apart, met as adults, and were, doncha know, crazy for each other. I was pretty sure it was illegal, but asked him to give me a half hour to research it, and call me back. (He would not give me his number.)

    He never called back. Akshully, I think this was a prank by my law school pals, but none will own up to it.

    And yeah, it is illegal.

    –Mona–

  24. A guy tells his doctor, “Whenever I have sex my penis swells up and itches.”

    The doctor runs some tests and asks the patient, “What kind of condoms do you use?” After the patient tells him, he says, “You must be allergic to the lubricant they use. Use another brand from now on.”

    “Phew. That’s a relief.”

    “Why? What did you think it was?”

    “Well, I thought I was allergic to the cat.”

  25. The Egyption royalty practiced incest a lot without any apparent ill effects

    The one royal family that I have ever heard that had significant amounts of inbreeding without any genetic repurcussions were the Incas

    Just because there weren’t any *recorded* ill effects doesn’t mean that there weren’t ill effects. These people were despots ruling over societies that were almost completely illiterate. Even if the average Pharoh or Incan noble was a hemophiliac who drooled constantly and had an IQ of 77, do you really think anybody would have written that fact down for posterity?

  26. If the rationale for outlawing incest is the probability of recessive gene-linked birth defects, then would the government be justified in outlawing marriage (or for that matter, copulation) between unrelated individuals with the same potentially harmful recessive gene?

    I realize that we aren’t at a technological point where most people would know whether this is the case or not, but we probably will be within a couple of decades, if not sooner.

    The action of the Vermont Senate on this matter was pretty clearly based on the ickiness factor, as there was no way this couple was going to reproduce. I would imagine this is the case for most people who support the prohibition of incest, whether they will admit it or not.

    I seriously doubt that if we completely decriminalized incest tomorrow, the incidence of it would change one bit. Are that many people just waiting to have a go with their sister as soon as it’s legal, but not a moment before? C’mon…

    By the way, a boy from Alabama comes home to tell his father he’s met the girl he wants to marry. His father asks, “son, is she a virgin?”

    “Yessir, she certainly is!”

    “Well, if she’s not good enough for her own family, she’s not good enough for ours!”

    Brian
    (Georgia Native)

  27. Dan,
    Sorry, I wrote that wrong. Most of the discovery of genetic defects among the ancient Egyptians was due to fossilized remains. Among the Incas, IIRC, they actually found fewer defects in the fossilized remains of the royal family than they did in the general, not inbred, population. Which goes to show that inbreeding can be beneficial if you’re in a good gene pool.

    J,
    Your point is one reason that I’m a big fan of interracial marriage (another is that children of interracial couple seem to be disproportionately hot) is that it in essence a more extended family. Also, there are far less negative genes that are dominant than recessive genes, so there are relatively more positive traits. This means, there is increased likelihood of more positive genes being expressed in the offspring.

  28. Among the Incas, IIRC, they actually found fewer defects in the fossilized remains of the royal family than they did in the general, not inbred, population.

    Well, yes. But that only accounts for defects that are apparent in skeletal remains. They could all have (for example) suffered from a host of mental illnesses, and been dumb as posts, and we’d never figure it out from looking at their remains. It seems unlikely that they would have been free from the negative effects of inbreeding, unless they regularly culled their children.

    If the rationale for outlawing incest is the probability of recessive gene-linked birth defects, then would the government be justified in outlawing marriage (or for that matter, copulation) between unrelated individuals with the same potentially harmful recessive gene?

    It seems to me that it should be reproduction, not marriage or copulation, that should be outlawed in that case. Pregnancy is, after all, completely avoidable, even if you’re sexually active.

    Anyway, it seems to me that there will only be a very narrow window of a few years (if that) between “testing for negative traits is cheap and ubiqitous enough to be made mandatory” and “negative genetic traits are medically correctable”. So it’s probably a moot point.

  29. Thanks J. Doc , “lest we get more cases of favinism, etc. etc..” spell check please.
    Favism:
    DESCRIPTION: Hemolytic anemia due to the ingestion of fava beans or after inhalation of pollen from the Vicia fava plant by person with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficient erythrocytes. Usual course – acute; chronic; intermittent; relapsing. Endemic areas – malarial endemic areas; worldwide.

    CAUSES: acute hemolysis, fava bean ingestion
    vicia faba ingestion
    ICD-9-CM:
    282.2 favism Author(s): Mark R. Dambro, MD

    Fava beans and liver anyone? /R

  30. All very interesting my friends, but let me tell you the tale of Ben and Socrates, my pet Norwegian rats that I kept in the back yard in a huge cage I built myself at age 9.

    The white one was female the black and white one was male. You can guess the rest.

    By the third generation the birth defects were affecting as many as half of the rats. Within two years the healthy babies numbered about one in ten.

    We are talking scary stuff here, like babies with no eyes, missing limbs, inability to eat, no fur, obvious mental retardation, paralysis, aggressive behavior, etc etc. Many of the affected rats died quickly, others didn’t

    Come on guys, I was a kid, it took me a while to clue in, but eventually I did.

  31. Hey, I’ve got no problems with it. The legal rationale for gay marriage – which I’m really getting comfortable with nowadays – is that the right to get married is the right of any person, to marry any other person. The social policy argument for it is that the nuclear family, as traditionally conceived by conservatives – mommy, daddy, and kids – is in such bad state, it’s not really worth it for society to bother trying to protect it. After all, the conservative argument that justifies this rampant homophobia denying gays the right to marry, is that the state has a strong interest in preserving that family structure – but when 30% of families break up, and 70% of all marriages end in divorce (marriage being a recidivism problem for some) then the family really doesn’t deserve protection. It’s finished.

    So if daddy wants to let his daughter have her first date (with him) at 16, and get married (to him) at 18, I’m cool with it. Who are we to stand in the way of love?

  32. TWC,

    Maybe it’s because one of them was a chick but had a dude’s name. Didja ever think of that?

    For various research purposes, some animals (and plants) are kept in labs as inbred lines. It’s a very common thing to do with fruit flies, and even mice can be maintained in completely inbred lines. Of course along the way you have a lot of animals with various problems, but they’re discarded and the healthier ones are used for breeding the next generation.

  33. Brian wrote: “If the rationale for outlawing incest is the probability of recessive gene-linked birth defects, then would the government be justified in outlawing marriage (or for that matter, copulation) between unrelated individuals with the same potentially harmful recessive gene?
    I realize that we aren’t at a technological point where most people would know whether this is the case or not, but we probably will be within a couple of decades, if not sooner.”

    We don’t even need further technological advancements to determine that for many conditions. Heck, for some conditions people don’t even have to be genetically tested, you could tell from a simple medical exam. For example, sickle cell anemia is caused by a recessive gene, so any person with sickle cell must have two copies of the gene. That means if two sickle cell sufferers have a child, it is guaranteed (barring a million-to-one mutation of the relevant gene) that the child will have sickle cell. However, I’m not aware of any state that prohibits people from marrying (let alone having sex) merely because of their sickle cell status.

  34. I promise Stephen, if I can ever marry the man I love legally in the US, I won’t get him pregant. 🙂

    FYI, as you can see, the ‘first cousin’ mutations are more evident if you keep it going for many generations. If you have the occassional one, it’s no more likely to have two heads or hemophilia than a couple from the same ethnic background.

    After all, let’s stop african americans from marrying other african americans to stamp out sickle cell anemia, italians can’t marry italians lest we get more cases of favinism, etc. etc.

  35. This whole conversation is damaging my chromosomes.

  36. Doc, favinism? Nothing on Google or MSN search. /R

  37. rick,

    I think it’s favism.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.