Cousins start petition to get married

Angela Peang and Michael Lee.
Angela Peang and Michael Lee. Photo credit: Facebook/Angela Peang

A pair of cousins have started a petition for their home state of Utah to let them get married.

Angela Peang and Michael Lee, whose parents are brother and sister, say they've "been in love with each other our whole lives".

"We believe that the law is outdated and it needs to be changed so that we can socially legitimise our love," Ms Peang, who lives in Eagle Mountain, Utah, wrote on the petition.

She told CBS News they fell for each other when they were just children, and would fool around at family functions.

"We went into a closet and we were kissing and dancing together. It just felt really natural... We got in trouble. After that we were kind of kept apart."

Ms Peang said they both got married to other people and had kids, before getting divorced. Then last Christmas, after a decade apart, they reconnected at their grandmother's house.

"We felt a lot of love and missed each other over the years."

This time, they're not hiding in any closets. Last week the pair travelled to Colorado, where marriages between first cousins are legal, and tied the knot. Now they want their home state of Utah to recognise it.

"It really isn't something they should be afraid of or against," Mr Lee told CBS News.

It's already technically legal in Utah for first cousins to get married, but only if they're 65 or older - presumably to reduce the chances of any offspring.

But scientists say there's little added risk from marrying a cousin. It's estimated while 3 to 4 percent of children born to distantly-related parents are at risk of having a serious genetic defect, that only rises to between 4 and 7 percent for first cousins, according to a 2002 study

Having children with close relations is more likely to produce babies with birth defects because of the similarity of the parents' DNA - weak genes are less likely to get weeded out.

First cousins share 12.5 percent of their DNA - much less than that of siblings, which is 50 percent.

A study released last year found the average married couple are seventh cousins. A few hundred years ago they were fourth cousins.