Is It Legal To Marry Your Cousin In North Carolina

North Carolina prohibits marriage between first cousins, one of many states banning such unions. Here’s an overview of North Carolina’s law.

First Cousin Marriage is Banned

Under Section 51-3 of the North Carolina General Statutes, marriages between first cousins are prohibited within the state. This ban encompasses biological first cousins as well as double first cousins who share both sets of grandparents.

Any attempt by first cousins to wed in North Carolina constitutes a Class I felony, punishable by 3-10 months in prison. The law clearly defines first cousins as within the “degrees of relationship” where marriage is unlawful.

No Exceptions to the Prohibition

North Carolina makes no exceptions allowing first cousin marriage under special circumstances, such as if the couple is beyond childbearing years or undergoes genetic counseling.

The prohibition is comprehensive – first cousins cannot legally marry in North Carolina under any conditions. All first cousin unions are barred.

Contrast to Neighboring States

It’s important to note that laws on cousin marriage diverge substantially across the 50 states. Many southeastern states prohibit the practice, but others are more permissive.

For instance, first cousin marriage is fully legal in neighboring states like Tennessee, South Carolina, and Virginia. So North Carolina is on the stricter side regionally in banning all first cousin unions.

Social Attitudes Align with Legal Ban

Along with firm legal prohibitions, public sentiment in North Carolina also strongly disfavors cousin marriage. Surveys show over 75% disapproval of first cousin unions among state residents.

This social stigma reinforces legal barriers and makes marriage difficult for cousins even if willing to risk criminal penalties. Both law and culture impose hurdles.

Rationale Behind Prohibiting Cousin Marriage

Supporters of cousin marriage bans argue they combat risks of congenital disabilities and infant mortality. But critics contend the bans infringe on personal freedom without sufficient health justifications.

North Carolina stands firmly on the side of prohibition to preclude any potential genetic risks arising from close biological relationships. But laws continue evolving nationwide.


In summary, North Carolina first cousins face major legal and social barriers to marriage within the state. Proponents will likely continue advocating for a more permissive policy in line with trends in other states. But under current law, first cousin unions are strictly prohibited

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