Is It Legal To Marry Your Cousin In Texas In 2005, Texas passed a law making it illegal for first cousins to get married in the state. This law remains in effect today, meaning that if you are a Texas resident, you cannot legally marry your first cousin.
What does the law say?
The law specifically states that marriage is prohibited if the parties are related to each other as a first cousin or in any closer degree of consanguinity. This applies to biological first cousins as well as adoptive first cousins. The law also prohibits marriage between half first cousins.
First cousins share a grandparent, while half cousins share only one grandparent. So in Texas, you cannot marry someone who shares a grandparent with you, whether you share both grandparents or just one. This applies even if you and your cousin were not raised together or did not grow up knowing each other as family.
What about other states?
It’s important to note that cousin marriage laws vary significantly from state to state. Roughly half of U.S. states allow first cousin marriages under certain circumstances, while the others prohibit it entirely. For example, California permits first cousin marriage as long as both cousins are over the age of 65 or incapable of reproducing. Other states require genetic counseling for blood-related couples.
So if you and your cousin live in different states, you may be allowed to marry in one state but not the other. Be sure to check the laws in both locations before making any plans. Texas residents cannot legally marry their first cousins, even if traveling to another state to do so.
Why ban cousin marriages?
Supporters of cousin marriage bans argue they help prevent genetic defects in children. Some research indicates there is an increased risk of certain rare recessive genetic conditions when the parents are closely related. However, other studies suggest the risks have been exaggerated.
Critics of cousin marriage laws argue they are unnecessary government overreach into private relationships. They note that such marriages are culturally accepted in many parts of the world. Ultimately, opinions remain mixed on whether banning cousin marriages leads to sufficient public health benefits to justify the prohibition.
What about other relatives?
In Texas, you also cannot marry any other close blood relative including siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, or nieces/nephews. The prohibited degrees of consanguinity are spelled out in the Texas Family Code, Chapter 2, Subchapter B.
Marriages between step-relatives (step-siblings, etc) are permitted as long as a legal adoption did not occur. The only exception under Texas law is that a widow or widower may marry their former spouse’s direct descendant or ancestor.
What are the penalties?
In Texas, attempting to enter a prohibited marriage intentionally is considered a felony. It can be punished by 2-10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Knowingly providing false information to obtain a marriage license is also a felony.
In summary, Texas has banned first cousin marriages since 2005. Attempting such a marriage, even if traveling to another state, can result in a prison sentence for Texas residents. The law is meant to avoid potential health risks, though experts disagree on the severity of those risks. For now, Texans cannot legally marry their first cousins or half cousins regardless of the circumstances.