Two men enjoy a dance at their wedding
Posed by models (Photo: Shutterstock)

Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation yesterday that prohibits biological first cousins from marrying. However, the law met with resistance from some in the state house.

Republican Rep. Gino Bulso objected as lawmakers discussed the law. One set of Bulso’s own grandparents were first cousins. Because of this, Bulso previously said that if the proposed law existed in olden days, “I would not be here.”

Bulso wanted to add a proposal that would allow cousins to marry if they first received genetic counseling first.

It’s known that if biological family members procreate together, there is an increased risk of genetic defects in the resulting offspring.

Bulso went on to sugges that banning first cousins from marrying might go against the US Supreme Court case on Obergefell. He suggested that as two same-sex cousins couldn’t biologically have a child, it was discriminatory to ban them from marrying.

“Unless anyone in this body can articulate a compelling interest to deny a male first cousin from marrying a male first cousin, this bill demonstrably violates Obergefell and we should vote it down,” Bulso said.

Pride flag ban

Before you think that Bulso is an LGBTQ+ ally, it’s worth noting he traditionally votes against advances in gay rights. In fact, even in the current session, he introduced legislation to ban Pride flags flying in schools and classrooms.

Introducing that particular legislation, he said in January, “You know, 50 years ago we had a consensus on what marriage is; we don’t have that anymore. One hundred years ago, we had a consensus on sexual morality; I don’t think we have that anymore. So the values that I think most parents want their children exposed to are the ones that were in existence at the time that our country was founded.”

Lawmakers approved Bulso’s flag-ban legislation.

Lawmakers act with disbelief

As Bulso gave his speech on allowing first cousins to marry, Democrat Rep. Antonio Parkinson was captured nearby shaking his head in belief.

Parkinson later told reporters outside the chamber Bulso’s attempt to save first-cousin marriage was “ballsy”.

Another Democratic to slam Bulso’s move was Rep. Gloria Johnson.

“I apologize for these extremists. It’s a lovely state, but these guys who fool folks into thinking they will lead with integrity – instead they are ridiculous,” she said on X.

Bulso’s proposed amendment was tabled during the debate. Lawmakers then overwhelmingly passed the legislation, with only Bulso and another Republican, Monty Fritts, objecting. The legislation has already passed in the Senate and it’s now up to Governor Bill Lee to sign.

Our condolences to any gay cousins hoping to get hitched in Tennessee.

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