updated 2/18/2010 2:23:45 PM ET 2010-02-18T19:23:45

A Maryland state legislator says it's time to ban marriages between first cousins and stop playing what he calls "genetic roulette" with their offspring.

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Henry Heller, a Democratic delegate, or state representative, says he wants to bring Maryland "into the enlightened world of other states such as West Virginia and Arkansas" that already prohibit unions of first cousins.

Heller is a retired special education administrator. He says couples who are first cousins are at an increased risk of having a child with birth defects.

The bill would make an exception for people who are over age 65 or infertile. Heller says he has "no problem" with those couples if they want the companionship.

There are 24 states that prohibit marriage between first-cousins.

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