A mother and adult son charged with incest in New Mexico are going public with their relationship, saying they are willing to go to jail to fight for the “right” to be together.
The mother, Monica Mares, 36, and her son, Caleb Peterson, 19, met again last year after nearly 18 years apart. Another family adopted Peterson soon after Mares gave birth to him. Their relationship soon turned romantic, according to the couple, and Peterson started living with Mares and her two youngest children, ages 5 and 6, in Clovis, New Mexico.
Police learned of the relationship during a domestic dispute involving a neighbor in late February, according to reporting by the Clovis News Journal. Peterson admitted to having sexual relations with Mares. Mares and Peterson appeared in court March 10 to face charges of incest, a felony. Last week the court moved the trial date from late August to Oct. 26. If convicted, they could each face up to three years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
The case garnered a wider audience after an exclusive in-depth interview with Britain’s Daily Mail earlier this month. Mares and Peterson said they hoped to raise awareness for “Genetic Sexual Attraction,” sexual attraction between close relatives who first meet as adults.
“Honestly, I never thought we would get into trouble for our relationship. We were both consenting adults—when it comes down to it,” Peterson said in the Daily Mail interview. “She’s adult; I’m adult. I can make my own decisions. I never thought it would blow up into something like this.”
A support and advocacy website for related couples is raising money for their legal fees. The site supports what it calls consanguinamorous relationships and is pushing for “FULL marriage equality for ALL consenting adults.” A woman who calls herself Cristina Shy runs the site.
“It needs to be brought to the attention of everybody in the country, and people need to start thinking differently,” Shy told the Daily Mail. “It was the same with gay people just a few years ago and now they can get married and they are accepted. Well, why not consanguinamorous people like us? We are all adults.”
That is “not a far leap at all,” said Travis Weber, an attorney with the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.
“I think that the framing of this case and the advocacy on their behalf is made much easier by the Supreme Court’s decision and many of the developments we are seeing in law in regards to homosexuality,” Weber said.
Despite public pushback, many commentators are advocating for Mares and Peterson’s right to have a sexual relationship. The local Clovis News Journal editorial board published an article in March arguing that regardless of any objections, “from morality to the physical and psychological health of everyone connected to this family—there is an overriding concern that government does not belong in the bedroom of consenting adults.”
Weber said this case points to a societal breakdown of logic and reason. People who oppose Mares and Peterson’s relationship are “holding onto a vestige of conscience and moral judgment in some areas,” but if pushed, Weber said, they often “can’t pinpoint why they are holding that view.”
When asked about the health risks of incestuous relationships, Weber said we have shut down an objective discussion about the health risks in regard to homosexuality: “What’s to stop us in regard to incest?”
— by Kiley Crossland