Is It Legal To Marry Your Cousin In Tennessee 

In Tennessee, marriage between first cousins is allowed, though certain close familial relationships are prohibited. Here’s an overview of what types of cousin marriages are legal versus illegal in the state.

Marriages Between Siblings are Banned

Tennessee law clearly prohibits marriages between brothers and sisters. These relationships are considered incestuous under Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-15-302.

Trying to marry or engage in sexual activity with a sibling is a Class C felony, punishable by 3-15 years in prison. The ban includes relationships between half-siblings, step-siblings, and adoptive siblings.

First Cousins Can Legally Marry

However, Tennessee places no restrictions on marriages between first cousins. The state does not ban, limit, or impose special requirements on marriages between biological first cousins.

This means you can legally marry your first cousin in Tennessee. Double first cousins, who share all the same grandparents, are also permitted to wed under state law.

No Prohibitions on Other Family

Additionally, Tennessee allows legal marriage between other extended family members including uncles/aunts and nieces/nephews. There are no regulations prohibiting blood relatives except direct ancestors and descendants.

So marriages beyond the nuclear family are broadly permitted as long as the relationship does not fall under the sibling prohibition.

Compare Nationwide Cousin Marriage Laws

It’s important to note that regulations for cousin marriages differ substantially across states. Over half of U.S. states currently prohibit marriage between first cousins.

Others allow it conditionally or require genetic counseling for cousin couples first. Be sure to check any relevant state laws if your partner lives outside Tennessee.

Social Stigma Still Exists

Additionally, even though legally permitted, marriages between cousins are still socially frowned upon in many communities. Family and friends may be uncomfortable with the idea and reject the relationship.

The cultural stigma relates to traditional taboos against close familial marriages and suspicions about potential health effects for children. Public attitudes often lag behind legal permissions.

Rationale Behind Tennessee’s Laws

By completely banning only sibling relationships, Tennessee law aims to prohibit the closest genetic marriages with the highest risks of developmental issues. More distant cousin relations are allowed.

Supporters argue this approach appropriately balances public health concerns with personal freedom around marriage. But critics argue any cousin marriage bans are unnecessary government overreach.


While legal, cousin couples in Tennessee may still face skepticism and disapproval from others. But the law broadly permits first cousin marriages, granting cousins the right to make their own decisions about marriage and family. Legally, cousins face no obstacles to marriage

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