Is It Legal To Marry Your First Cousin In California

California prohibits marriage between first cousins, with a few limited exceptions. Here is an overview of California’s laws concerning first cousin unions and the rationale behind them.

First Cousin Marriage Generally Prohibited

Under Section 2200 of the California Family Code, marriages between biological first cousins are prohibited in the state of California. This ban includes both full cousins and double first cousins who share both sets of grandparents.

Violating the prohibition by knowingly entering a first cousin marriage can be charged as a felony offense. So California generally bars cousins from marrying.

Narrow Exceptions Exist

However, California does make two exceptions where first cousins may legally marry:

  • If both members of the couple are 65 years of age or older, they are permitted to marry as first cousins.
  • If both partners are over 50, they can also marry as cousins if medical documentation proves one is unable to reproduce.

These allowances acknowledge that the main public health concerns with cousin marriage are reduced in older, infertile couples. But for the majority of cousins, marriage remains unlawful.

No Recognition of Out-of-State Marriages

Additionally, California refuses legal recognition of first cousin marriages performed legally in other states. If cousins travel to marry where permitted, that marriage will still be void if they return to live in California afterward.

California maintains its own first cousin marriage prohibition regardless of laws elsewhere. Cousins cannot find loopholes through interstate marriage.

Rationale Behind Prohibitions

Supporters of banning cousin marriage argue it helps prevent genetic defects, congenital disabilities, and associated risks. But critics contend it infringes on personal freedom between consenting adults.

California aims to balance these perspectives through narrow exceptions, but generally prohibits cousin unions to avoid potential health issues that may arise.


In summary, California law bars first cousin marriage for the majority of couples, with limited exceptions made for specific circumstances like age and infertility. Those interested will usually have to look out of state. But social stigma persists widely even if marrying elsewhere legally. Cousin couples in California continue facing hurdles.

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