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We Have A Big Problem

We were working on a case the other day which involved the degrees of consanguinity. You know, how close relatives are in relation to each other. The issue was whether the husband and wife were prohibited by law from marrying, and thus entitled to an annulment, because they were blood related, not just related by marriage.

But in our double checking the law on the subject, we uncovered a huge, huge problem.

O.C.G.A § 19‑3‑3, Degrees of relationship within which intermarriage prohibited; penalty; effect of prohibited marriage, states:

(a) Any person who marries a person to whom he knows he is related, either by blood or by marriage, as follows:

  • (1) Father and daughter or stepdaughter;
  • (2) Mother and son or stepson;
  • (3) Brother and sister of the whole blood or the half blood;
  • (4) Grandparent and grandchild;
  • (5) Aunt and nephew; or
  • (6) Uncle and niece

shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than three years.

(b) Marriages declared to be unlawful under subsection (a) of this Code section shall be void from their inception.

That all makes sense, right? Fathers can't marry daughters; Mothers can't marry sons. Whew. Glad that's settled.

But there is an oversight there that was not there when the law was enacted many, many years ago.

Obergefel changed everything. Same-sex marriage has been legal across the land since the Supreme Court handed down its decision. The day before the decision, we had one set of standards. The day after, a whole new set.

So, while before it was sufficient to outlaw marriage between an uncle and a niece, there was no need to declare that an aunt and a niece could not marry; nor an uncle and a nephew or a brother and a brother or a mother and a daughter.

Now, it is necessary.

So as of right now, there is no statute prohibiting fathers from marrying sons, etc. etc.. Perturbing, isn't it.

I'm recommending that our General Assembly place correcting this exposure on their to do list when they reconvene in January. I'm betting this could be a real kumbaya moment for our legislators. I'm betting that there won't be one vote against.

The law of unintended consequences indeed.

Michael Manely

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