Friday, April 3, 2009


Map of the legality of marriage to first cousins in the USA. In most of the Western world, while incest generally describes forbidden sexual relations within the family, the applicable definitions of family vary. Within the United States, marriage between first cousins is illegal in some states, but not in others. Sociologists have classified marriage laws in the United States into two categories: One in which the definitions of incest are taken from the Bible, which frowns upon marriage within one's lineage but less so on one's blood relatives; and one that frowns more on marriage between blood relatives (such as cousins), but less on that within one's lineage.

Twenty-four states prohibit marriages between first cousins, and another seven permit them only under special circumstances. Utah, for example, permits first cousins to marry only if both spouses are over age 65, or at least 55 with evidence of sterility; North Carolina permits first cousins to marry unless they are "double first cousins" (cousins through more than one line); Maine permits first cousins to marry only upon presentation of a certificate of genetic counseling. The other states with some, but not absolute, limits on first-cousin marriage are Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

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