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State Laws Regarding Marriages Between First Cousins

Twenty-five states prohibit marriages between first cousins. Six states allow first cousin marriage under certain circumstances, and North Carolina allows first cousin marriage but prohibits double-cousin marriage. States generally recognize marriages of first cousins married in a state where such marriages are legal.

Cousin marriage legal

First cousin marriage prohibited

Allowed under certain circumstances

Alabama

Alaska

California

Colorado

Connecticut

District of Columbia

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Maryland

Massachusetts

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina*

Rhode Island

South Carolina

Tennessee

Vermont

Virginia

Arkansas

Delaware

Idaho

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

South Dakota

Texas

Washington

West Virginia

Wyoming

Arizona

Illinois

Indiana

Maine

Utah

 

First cousin marriage is allowed in these states under the following circumstances:

Arizona- if both are 65 or older, or one is unable to reproduce.

Illinois- if both are 50 or older, or one is unable to reproduce.

Indiana- if both are at least 65.

Maine- if couple obtains a physician's certificate of genetic counseling.

Utah- if both are 65 or older, or if both are 55 or older and one is unable to reproduce.

Wisconsin- if the woman is 55 or older, or one is unable to reproduce.

North Carolina- First cousin marriage is legal. Double cousin marriage is prohibited.

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Comment by Mark Strange on June 27, 2012 at 4:17pm

Every time a parent has a child there is a risk of genetic disease because having children is like gambling. You both put in your genetic code and pull the lever and chance takes over, mixing the DNA and distributing it equally. Both mother and father have a chance of passing on good and bad genetics but the chance of passing on good genetics is increased due to genetic variation. The closer to the source (the parents) you are the lower the genetic variation, consequentially,  the higher the chance of bad genetics being transferred to the child. Its similar to the increased risk associated with having a large family or passing on bad genetics or if both parents share a genetic problem, even if not directly, that problem as a higher risk of being transferred to the child. First cousins usually have enough genetic variation to not warrant too much concern. Now, if it became some kind hypothetical tradition where the trend continued every generation for years, you’d see a major problem because there just wouldn’t be enough genetic variation, but in a free country that isn't a likely scenario.

Comment by Adriana on June 27, 2012 at 3:16pm

Darwin himself married his first cousin, and he blamed himself for having done that; he thought his daughter died because she had a weak immune system from the inbreeding (link).

True, everyone can have children with genetic diseases, but the probabilities rise with consanguinity; for example, Ashkenazi Jews are similar to each other as 5th cousins even if not related, and they have higher risks of certain diseases such as Tay-Sachs. However, this is not to discourage you from marrying your cousin, lots of people throughout the ages have married their first cousins and have had perfectly healthy children. As long as you understand you'll have slightly higher risks that two totally unrelated people, that's fine, it's still relatively small statistically speaking. It seems you'll have to get married in a different state.

Comment by Mark Strange on June 27, 2012 at 12:46pm

I don't know. They don't recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, but that's because it says it actually says it must be between a man and a woman in Oklahoma law. My cousin is a woman so they might.

Comment by Michel on June 27, 2012 at 9:34am

I'm a bit surprised Nevada prohibits marriage between first cousins, like they care?
Would Oklahoma recognize your marriage in another state where it is legal?

Comment by Mark Strange on June 27, 2012 at 9:15am

Also we want to marry but I live in Oklahoma and can't.

Comment by Mark Strange on June 27, 2012 at 9:10am

The reason I posted this here, the reason this topic interest me is because I am dating my First Cousin. I've loved her from before I knew what love was, met at the age of 8 and was inseparable ever since. I realize that there is a slight risk, but it isn't actually as dangerous as one is lead to the think - the reason behind the belief is  "Bad Science" fueled bigotry. Its has become common belief, certain presumptions most people never bothered to question. The facts are that every couple is at risk of passing on bad genetics, it does not matter how separated you are and "the mother should be followed closely through pregnancy" should always happen no matter the circumstance.  Marrying within your own race increases the odds of birth defects. The risk of birth defects is only slightly higher than non-related couples. Obviously one could argue my bias, but I've studied this for a couple years now - its important to me to know the Facts.

Side note: Darwin himself married his first cousin.

Comment by Marianne on June 26, 2012 at 11:26pm

I kind of agree that double cousins marriage who have children put those at terrible risks; but first cousins marriage also do pose a problem if the couple want to have children but I don't think it should be prohibited but both consenting adults must be aware of the risks and maybe the mother should be followed closely through pregnancy in my opinion.

Comment by Mark Strange on June 26, 2012 at 6:41pm

Double first cousins arise when two siblings of one family reproduce with two siblings of another family. The resulting children are related to each other through both parents' families. Double first cousins share both sets of grandparents in common and have double the degree of consanguinity of ordinary first cousins. Children of double first cousins are double second cousins to each other.

Comment by Adriana on June 26, 2012 at 4:00pm

What is a "double cousin?"

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