When Cousins Get Married

ByABC News
September 5, 2006, 10:45 AM

Sept. 5, 2006 — -- Everyone wants to fall in love.

It's the stuff of movies, songs and dreams.

But what if you fall in love with your cousin?

For two cousins, romance bloomed when they met as adults after a 20-year absence.

"We ran into each other, at a family reunion," Christie Smith said. "And we just struck it off."

Smith said marrying her cousin, Mark, brought concerns.

"It was very scary, at first. I thought that it was something that was very wrong," she said.

Cousins who fall in love have a right to voice concerns. After all, marrying a cousin just isn't done, right?

At least that's what we're taught to believe. Only primitive people who live in isolated places marry cousins, and it's dangerous and leads to creating stupid children.

Or does it? A new study reveals the genetic risks associated with this type of pairing are not as great as once believed.

And consider this Albert Einstein's parents were cousins, and he married his cousin, too.

FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt were second cousins, so were Prince Albert and Queen Victoria and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was briefly married to a second cousin.

In America, marrying your cousin is legal in 25 states and every year about 200,000 cousins wed.

Worldwide, it's much more common. Twenty percent of all married couples are cousins. In some Middle Eastern countries, almost half of all marriages are to cousins.

But in America, cousins who find love also find public resistance.