Wednesday, March 21, 2007

No Logical Legal Objection Remains to Adult Incest

From "Saw This One Coming" by Chuck Colson, posted 3/21/07, for

The BBC recently ran a story about a German couple named Patrick and Susan. The couple has been living together unmarried for the past six years and has four children. In a continent full of unmarried couples with children, this particular pair stands out—because they are brother and sister.

As a young child, Patrick was given up for adoption. He finally met his mother and the rest of his biological family, including Susan, seven years ago. After their mother died, the two became, in the BBC’s words, “lovers.”

As the couple’s lawyer, Endrik Wilhelm, told the BBC, “this law is out of date, and it breaches the couple’s civil rights.” According to the lawyer, the “couple [is] not harming anyone,” and the ban “is discrimination.”

To those like Juergen Kunze, a geneticist at Berlin’s Charite Hospital, who cite the genetic risks to the offspring of incest, Wilhelm replies: “Why are disabled parents” or “people with hereditary diseases [and] women over 40” allowed to have children?

Anyone who claims to be surprised by this case has not been paying attention to American law. In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court found that “consenting” adults had a right to privacy when it comes to sexual relations—any kind of sexual relations. As Justice Scalia pointed out in his stinging dissent, the logic employed by the majority of the court could be applied to laws against “bigamy, same-sex marriage [and] adult incest.”

If you deny that there’s a “substantial government interest in protecting order and morality,” as courts increasingly are doing, where do you draw the line? Certainly not at same-sex “marriage,” as we have seen. The fact is that, as Dr. Kunze puts it, laws like these “based on long traditions in Western societies” have not been stopping courts lately.

The ugly truth is that, absent a “substantial government interest in protecting order and morality,” the incestuous couple has the better argument. In a culture where personal autonomy trumps long-established moral traditions, our revulsion does look like the kind of prejudice that Lawrence rejected as the basis for laws.

Read the whole commentary at