Is It Legal To Marry Your Cousin In Arkansas 

Arkansas prohibits marriage between first cousins, one of many states banning such unions. However, the law includes some nuances worth examining.

First Cousin Marriage is Banned

The answer to your question, Is It Legal To Marry Your Cousin In Arkansas is Under Arkansas Code 9-11-106, marriages between biological first cousins are prohibited within the state. This includes full cousins as well as double first cousins who share both sets of grandparents.

Any attempt by Arkansas first cousins to wed or engage in sexual conduct can result in up to 10 years in prison under the incest statute. The law clearly defines the cousin relationship as incestuous.

But Some Precedent Exists

However, there is a 1986 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling, Etheridge v. Shaddock, that upheld the validity of a marriage between an Arkansas resident and their first cousin performed in Colorado where such unions are legal.

While Arkansas won’t allow the marriage itself, this provides some precedent for recognizing an existing marriage between first cousins if legally performed out-of-state. But subsequent residency is unclear.

More Distant Relations May Be Allowed

Additionally, Arkansas statutes do not expressly prohibit marriages between more distant relations like first cousins once removed, second cousins, etc. These fall outside the lineal and collateral definitions.

So while first cousins clearly cannot marry, there may be legal wiggle room for cousins who are further removed from the direct relationship. Relevant case law is scarce.

Social Stigma Also Plays a Role

Along with prohibitions in law, many Arkansans oppose cousin marriage on moral and health grounds. Even if allowed, cousins would likely face criticism and rejection.

Opponents argue it risks birth defects, but supporters say those concerns are overblown and should not limit personal freedom. The cultural stigma remains strong.

Rationale Behind Cousin Marriage Bans

Backers of prohibiting cousin marriage argue it prevents potential congenital disorders and infant mortality. Critics contend banning relationships between consenting adults is unnecessary government overreach.

For now, Arkansas lands firmly on the side of prohibition, though precedent exists for exceptions. Laws on cousin marriage vary widely across the United States and are evolving.


In summary, Arkansas first cousins who wish to marry currently face legal barriers and social taboo. But some leeway may exist for specific circumstances or more distant relations. The laws attempt to balance risks, precedent and personal liberty – not always consistently. Those interested should research thoroughly and proceed with caution

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