Kentucky prohibits marriage between first cousins, with a few narrow exceptions. Here is an overview of Kentucky’s regulations concerning cousin marriage.
First Cousin Marriage Generally Prohibited
Under Section 402.010 of Kentucky statutes, marriage between biological first cousins is prohibited. This ban encompasses full cousins as well as half first cousins who share only one grandparent.
First cousins once removed are also included in the prohibition. Violating the law constitutes a Class A misdemeanor offense.
Exceptions for Older Couples
However, Kentucky does carve out one exception where first cousins are permitted to legally marry. If both members of the couple are 65 years of age or older, they can marry as first cousins.
This acknowledges that the main public health concerns with cousin marriage, like potential birth defects, are vastly diminished with couples past childbearing age. But it only applies to seniors.
Out-of-State Marriages Not Recognized
Additionally, Kentucky refuses to recognize cousin marriages that were validly performed in other states. If first cousins travel to a state where cousin marriage is legal and get married, that marriage will still be void if they return to live in Kentucky.
Kentucky maintains its own prohibition regardless of permissive laws elsewhere. Cousins cannot find a legal loophole through interstate marriage.
Social Stigma Remains Strong
Alongside legal prohibitions, social taboos against cousin marriage persist. Even if permitted for certain elderly couples, relationships between first cousins violate longstanding marital traditions in Kentucky.
Opponents argue cousin marriages risk birth defects and developmental issues in potential offspring. This stigma can be deeply ingrained even where exceptions exist.
Rationale Behind Cousin Marriage Bans
Supporters of prohibiting cousin marriage say it protects public health and human welfare. But critics argue it infringes on personal freedom and question if the risks warrant absolute bans.
Kentucky stakes out a middle ground with its limited exception for older couples who likely cannot reproduce. But for most cousins, marriage is barred.
In summary, Kentucky generally outlaws marriages between first cousins, with very narrow allowances made for senior couples only. Out-of-state marriages are not valid either. Cousins seeking marriage face high legal and social hurdles. Most will have to look outside Kentucky to find acceptance of their union.