Utah law prohibits marriages between first cousins, with a few narrow exceptions. Here’s an overview of Utah’s cousin marriage regulations and options for couples who wish to wed.
First Cousin Marriage Banned
Utah is one of the many states that bans marriage between first cousins. Under Utah Code §30-1-1, marriages between biological and adoptive first cousins are prohibited.
This applies to any couples within the first cousin relationship, including double first cousins who share all the same grandparents. Violating the law is a third-degree felony.
Exceptions for Older Couples
However, Utah has two exceptions where first cousins over certain ages are permitted to legally marry:
If both partners are 65 or older, they can marry regardless of their cousin relationship.
If one or both partners are at least 55, and they can prove permanent infertility, they can also marry their first cousin.
These exceptions acknowledge that the main concerns with cousin marriage (birth defects) are reduced with older, infertile couples. But for most younger cousins, marriage is barred.
Traveling to Nearby States
Some Utah cousins wishing to marry choose to travel to a nearby state where first cousin marriage is fully permitted, like Colorado or New Mexico.
As long as they meet the marriage requirements of that state, they can have a legally valid wedding ceremony performed there. However, they will reside in Utah as an unrecognized married couple.
Social Stigma Persists
Additionally, even if legally allowed under one of Utah’s exceptions, social disapproval of cousin marriage remains strong. Family and community members may be uncomfortable with or hostile toward cousin couples.
The cultural stigma relates to traditional marriage norms and suspicions about potential health effects for offspring. Cousins may face judgment even if their marriage is lawful.
Rationale Behind Utah’s Law
Supporters of cousin marriage bans argue they combat risks of genetic defects and developmental disabilities in children born to closely related parents.
Yet critics say the risks are small and can be mitigated with testing, while the bans infringe on personal freedom. Utah’s law represents an attempt to balance public health with individual liberty.
In Utah, the general rule is that first cousin marriages are felonious and invalid. The exceptions provide some options for older or infertile couples who undergo counseling. But most cousins cannot legally wed, and social disapproval remains strong. Those wishing to marry may consider traveling to find greater acceptance.