Married cousins hope to change Utah laws to recognize their union

By  | 

Monday, March 6, 2019

A Utah couple is petitioning for the right to get married because they say their love shouldn't be limited just because their parents are siblings.

EAGLE MOUNTAIN, UT (KTVX/CNN) - A pair of first cousins in Utah is fighting for the right to get married in their home state, saying their love shouldn’t be limited just because their parents are siblings.

Michael and Angie Lee tied the knot Monday in Colorado after they say they’ve loved each other since childhood. But the couple isn’t legally married in their home state of Utah because they are cousins.

“As soon as we crossed over the state border, we're not married anymore,” Michael Lee said.

In Utah, it is illegal for first cousins to get married unless they are 65, or 55 if they can prove they are infertile.

The Lees say that law is antiquated, and there is no real basis for the restriction. They started a Care2 petition and are gathering signatures in hopes of changing it.

“No one I’ve ever been with will make me feel as perfect as she does, and her being my cousin and some of the responses is a small price to pay,” Michael Lee said. “I’ve always loved you, Angie. You know that.”

The couple says it all started with a crush in second grade.

“I remember I stopped her mother and said, ‘I'm going to marry Angie.’ And she said, ‘No, I'm sorry, you can't, but you can be friends,” Michael Lee said.

Angie Lee’s father is the oldest of 12 children, and Michael Lee’s mother is the fifth child in the same family. Over the years, family vacations would bring the Lees together, but they say social norms would always draw them apart again.

"This is something I've always felt very – life was unfair. Why did the person I want to be with the most and had the most attraction to and the most natural feelings for…? Why did you have to be my cousin?” Michael Lee said.

The Lees, both recently single, reunited in the winter after 10 years, and now, they say, they’re finally ready to disregard the risks.

"We're like, ‘OK, this is crazy, but we're adults now and we're single now. We're just going to go for it, and who cares what our family thinks?” Angie Lee said.

According to researchers at Columbia University, first cousins share 12.5 percent of their DNA. If the cousins have children, they would face a 4 to 7 percent chance of their child having a genetic disorder, as opposed to a 3 to 4 percent chance for the average couple.

“The genetic consequences, the biological consequences are very small. It's more what people might think and say,” Michael Lee said.

In the United States, 24 states ban marriage between first cousins, and in six others, it is only allowed under certain circumstances, according to Popular Science.

Copyright 2019 KTVX, Family photos via CNN. All rights reserved.