New York permits marriage between first cousins but prohibits closer familial relationships. Here’s an overview of New York’s laws on cousin marriage and how they compare to other states.
Marriage Between Siblings is Banned
Under New York law, marriages between siblings, both full and half, are considered incestuous and expressly prohibited. This includes relationships between step-siblings or adoptive siblings as well.
Attempting to marry or engage in sexual conduct with a sibling constitutes a felony offense punishable by up to 4 years in prison under New York Penal Code Section 255.25.
First Cousins Can Legally Marry
However, the prohibition does not extend to first cousins. Under New York Domestic Relations Law, marriages between biological first cousins are permitted without any regulations or limitations.
This allows two first cousins to legally wed in New York. The same right is granted to double first cousins, who share all the same grandparents.
No Requirements for Genetic Testing
New York does not impose any special requirements for cousins like genetic testing, counseling, or infertility diagnoses. Cousins have the same marriage rights as non-related couples.
Some states do require such precautions before allowing cousin marriage, but New York has no such constraints. Cousins can freely marry.
Recognition Issues in Other States
Though legal in New York, cousin marriages may not be recognized elsewhere. About half of U.S. states currently prohibit marriage between first cousins.
If cousins wed in New York then move to a state banning cousin marriage, their union may not be considered valid. This can cause legal complications around rights and benefits.
Social Stigma Still Exists
Additionally, even though permitted by law, marriages between first cousins remain socially taboo across much of American society. Cousin couples often face skepticism, judgment and rejection.
Opponents worry about potential health effects on children or consider such relationships inappropriate. Supporters argue it should be a personal choice.
Rationale Behind New York’s Law
By prohibiting only the closest familial relationships like siblings, New York’s law seeks to prevent the highest-risk genetic matches while allowing more distant relations like cousins. This balances risks and freedom.
But the laws continue to evolve nationally in keeping with both scientific understandings and societal norms. The debate remains active.
While legal within the state, first cousin marriages in New York still generate controversy and lack universal recognition. But those wishing to marry a cousin do have full rights under New York law, regardless of what moral or genetic objections some may raise.