Is it legal to marry your cousin?

 

What an interesting question for this Wednesday afternoon. There is nothing like the feeling of outrage, judgment and – let’s be honest here – genuine interest that arises in people when you start to talk about physical and spiritual relationships between family members, regardless of how distant their respective branches of the big old family tree might be.

 

Our cat does not have this problem. Her father is also her brother and, we think, probably also her grandfather and cousin as well, and neither the law nor the cat seem to have any issue with this.

 

With us humans, though, it is a different story. In Australian society, and under Australian law, we have drawn a very clear line around what you can and cannot do with your family members, including your cousin, when it comes to things like marriage and the typical consequence of marriage – children.

 

There is a degree of religious undertone to the law in this area as well, as you would expect from anything dealing with marriage. Of course, the law in Australia is not so explicit as to say things like ‘you cannot marry your cousin because the Lord does not approve of such shenanigans’. However, our law does say that marriage is a union ‘between a man and a woman’ (at least, at the time I’m writing this), and that certain unions between two people, whether physical or emotional, are illegal. Much of the justification for these current laws is religious based. I will hold off on giving my thoughts on this subject, at least in this forum.

 

There is also a medical aspect to this area of law. It is clear from science, and by just looking at the history of the British royal family, that the closer two people are genetically the more chance they have of their crappy recessive genes being passed on to their child. This can and often does result in birth defects, both physical and mental, and ongoing health issues.

 

You can make all the arguments you like about how people should be free to love and marry whomever they chose. I completely agree. But I also accept that, religious and moral aspects aside, the law does need to say that certain unions are prohibited where there is clear evidence that such a union can have very significant and negative results for a child born of that union.

 

But enough moralising. If you have read this far you want to know whether, legally, you can you marry your cousin.

 

The answer, in all States and Territories of Australia, is a clear ‘yes’. Under Australia’s marriage laws you can marry anyone in your extended family, so long as that the person is not:

 

  • your ‘ancestor’ (parent, grandparent and so on), or your ‘descendent’ (child, grandchild, great-grandchild – you get the picture); or
  • your brother or your sister (whether of the ‘whole blood’ or the ‘half-blood’ – what a lovely way of thinking about your bro or sis).

 

But before you go out and speak to your aunt and uncle about the dowry for their little prince or princess, you should also keep in mind a few fundamental legal no-no’s when it comes to marriage.

 

You can’t get married if:

 

  • each person is of the same sex, at least for now (hopefully one day I will be able to remove this restriction from this list);
  • either of the people getting married is, at the time of the marriage, lawfully married to some other person – this means that you cannot have multiple husbands or wives at the same time, and you cannot marry your pets or a really good looking plant;
  • one party has not consented to be married, or has given consent but it is not REALLY consent because you (or someone else) have forced your partner to enter into the marriage;
  • the other person consented to the marriage but, through your deception, believed you to be someone else (the ‘evil twin’ situation, which I am sure happens all the time);
  • your partner does not have the mental capacity to understand the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony;
  • either of you is 16 or older, but under 18, and does not have parental consent to the marriage; or
  • either of you is under 16.

 

As long as you do not fall foul of any of the above restrictions on marriage AND you’re not marrying your ‘descendent’, your ‘ancestor’ or your brother or sister (or half-brother or half-sister) you are free to marry whoever you like, including you cousin. Have fun, hope your wedding is wonderful and your cousin/wife or cousin/husband makes you very happy.

 

Weirdo.

 

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Which are better, cats or dogs?

 

Dogs.

 

I meant, legally speaking.

 

Oh. That is a bit harder to answer.

 

It all depends on what you mean by ‘better’, in legal terms. One test could be: which is the deadlier animal and hence subject to greater legal control?

 

There are only a small number of cat breeds that are illegal to import and sell in Australia. These are pretty much any hybrid kitty (a little cat bred with a big cat like, say, a TIGER!), including but (as lawyers love to write) not limited to:

 

  • the Savannah cat, which is a domestic cat crossed with serval cat;

 

  • the Safari cat, which is a domestic cat crossed with a Geoffroy cat (these guys are bad ass); and

 

  • the Chausie, which is a domestic cat crossed with a jungle cat (leopardcat!).

 

A Bengal cat, which is a domestic cat crossed with an Asian leopard cat, can be imported so long as there is at least a five generation gap between the kitty and its ferocious, man-eating leopard great-great-great-great-grandparent.

 

The list of banned dogs, on the other paw, is much larger and wide-ranging. Mainly because dogs are bigger, stronger and less lazy, compared to cats. Dogs have also, in times past, been bred and trained specifically to kill other animals or infidels, and it tends to be these breeds that our animal control laws will never allow anyone to own, breed or sell.

 

This means that all wolf-dog cross breeds are banned, as are breeds that I have never heard of, including the Dogo Argentino, the Fila Brasileiro, the Japanese Tosa, the Pit Bull Terrier or the American Pit Bull, the Perro de Presa Canario or the Presa Canario.

 

Also, most States and Territories have laws that allow for any breed of dog, even the most stupid dog of all – the Pekinese – to be declared dangerous. If a breed is declared a dangerous dog, a whole bunch of additional laws and regulations kick in and put a leash on your right to let you dog do, effectively, what it likes. If you own a dangerous dog, you are required to take additional steps to ensure your dog remains under control and cannot harm the public. This includes the use of muzzles and special collars that state that the dog is dangerous.

 

Therefore, if we look at things from the perspective of which animal is regarded by the law as more dangerous and has the greater potential to harm the public, then dogs are treated more harshly by the laws of Australia.

 

I guess this makes cats the winner, using this test. Stupid cats.

 

But wait, all is not lost for dogs. They get the benefit of several laws that allow them to access places that no other animal in Australia can. Well, certain types of dogs do anyway. Yes, I am referring to guide dogs, or seeing eye dogs. I am not quite sure on the politically correct description, sorry.

 

I do not want to trivialise this issue, I assure you. My aim here is not to make fun of those who require the services of a guide dog. Rather, it is to recognise that our laws are successful in making life somewhat more comfortable and safe for those that require the use of a guide dog, by making it illegal to deny someone access to a building or service simply on the basis that they require a guide dog.

 

That means that a supermarket can have a store policy that bans all animals from coming into the store, but it cannot enforce this policy if to do so would discriminate against someone using a guide dog. If the supermarket did this, it could be in breach of our anti-discrimination laws, at both a State and Territory level, and at a national level.

 

Those that use guide dogs are also allowed to use their dog in public spaces and on public transport, with these rights protected by law.

 

It is even possible for guide dogs to accompany their human companion on planes, and having seen this in real life I can confirm that guide dogs are much better behaved than most passengers and never recline their seat violently during mealtimes.

 

For contributing to a reduction in discrimination, and protecting and enabling those that have sight or hearing impairment, dogs win.

 

Sadly, however, if we answer this question by working out how many laws in total prevent dogs doing what they want (take over the world), versus laws that prevent cats doing whatever they want (sleeping), then dogs are the biggest loser.

 

Looking at just the main pieces of law that regulate dog and cat ownership in the States and Territories, I count that there are:

 

  • 695 laws that regulate dog ownership and dog behaviour; versus
  • 44 laws that regulate cat ownership and cat behaviour.

 

Yes, this was a fun Thursday evening activity. No, I do not have any friends.

 

I love maths, so so much, so I cannot help but convert that to percentage terms. My analysis concludes (how sciencey do I sound right now? Hot, huh?) that 94% of pet laws regulate dogs, while only 6% regulate cats. Even if my numbers are out, and let’s say it is an 80/20 weighting, that is still a very bad result for doggies.

 

And there are 2 States that have laws that apply JUST to dogs – Western Australia and Tasmania. Dogs are, it seems, right to be barking mad about the vast number of laws that apply to them, compared to kitties.

 

Ultimately, I think the law favours cats. Just like our professional Rugby League players, cats are stupid, arrogant, smelly, and often poo in the wrong spot in the house, but they are well protected from a legal point of view and sometimes it seems that the law just does not apply to them.