Is It Illegal to Date Your Cousin in Massachusetts? Here’s What the Law Says

Love knows no bounds, or so the saying goes. But when it comes to romantic relationships, legal boundaries do exist, and these can vary depending on location. In the United States, laws regarding cousin dating differ from state to state. Some states, like Arkansas and Mississippi, have restrictions in place, while others, like California and New York, allow it. So, what about Massachusetts? Can cousins in the Bay State freely date and pursue a relationship?

This blog article delves into the legal landscape of cousin dating in Massachusetts. We’ll explore the relevant laws, potential risks associated with such relationships, and alternative options for couples to consider.

Laws Regarding Cousin Dating in the United States

Across the United States, there’s a patchwork of laws concerning cousin dating. Some states have specific prohibitions against marriage between first cousins, while others extend these restrictions to even more distant relatives like second cousins. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • States with Prohibitions: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
  • States with No Prohibitions: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont (for first cousins only), Washington, and Wyoming (for first cousins only).

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and specific legalities can vary within each state. Consulting a lawyer familiar with family law in your state is always recommended for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

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Massachusetts Law on Cousin Dating

Now, let’s address the question at hand: is it illegal to date your cousin in Massachusetts? The answer is clear: No, cousin dating is not illegal in Massachusetts. There are no state laws prohibiting romantic relationships between first cousins or any other degree of cousins.

This legal stance is reflected in the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 4, Section 6. This section outlines who cannot obtain a marriage license in the state. Consanguinity, or blood relation, between first cousins is not included in the list of restrictions.

Therefore, cousins in Massachusetts are free to date and pursue romantic relationships without violating any laws.

Risks Associated with Cousin Dating

While legal in Massachusetts, there are potential risks associated with cousin dating, particularly when it comes to having children. Offspring of close relatives, like first cousins, have a higher chance of inheriting certain genetic conditions.

These conditions arise because parents share a portion of their genes with their children. When parents are closely related, the chances of both passing on the same recessive gene, which can cause genetic disorders, increases significantly.

Here are some examples of genetic conditions that are more likely to occur in children born to first cousins:

  • Cystic fibrosis: This is a life-threatening inherited disease that affects the lungs, pancreas, and other organs.
  • Tay-Sachs disease: This is a fatal genetic disorder that affects the nervous system.
  • Congenital malformations: These are birth defects that can affect various parts of the body.

It’s important to remember that these are just a few examples, and the specific risks can vary depending on the family’s genetic makeup. The closer the blood relation between parents, the higher the chance of these risks manifesting.

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Genetic Counseling and Prenatal Testing

For couples in Massachusetts considering a family where one or both partners are cousins, genetic counseling is a crucial step. A genetic counselor is a healthcare professional with specialized training in genetics and hereditary conditions. They can:

  • Evaluate the couple’s family history for any known genetic diseases.
  • Assess the potential risks of having children based on their genetic closeness.
  • Discuss options for prenatal testing, which can identify potential genetic abnormalities in the developing fetus.

Prenatal testing comes in various forms, including:

  • Amniocentesis: A procedure where a small sample of amniotic fluid is withdrawn from the amniotic sac surrounding the fetus for analysis.
  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): A procedure where a small sample of tissue is collected from the placenta for analysis.
  • Cell-free fetal DNA testing: A non-invasive blood test on the mother that can detect certain genetic abnormalities in the fetus.

These tests can provide valuable information to couples and help them make informed decisions about their family planning.

Alternatives to Consider

Couples in Massachusetts where cousin dating is a personal preference but procreation is not desired have other options to consider. Here are two avenues to explore:

  • Adoption: Adoption allows couples to provide a loving home for a child in need. The adoption process can vary depending on the chosen route (domestic or international adoption), but it can be a fulfilling way to build a family.
  • Fostering: Fostering involves providing temporary care for children who cannot live with their biological parents. This can be a rewarding experience for couples who want to nurture and support children in need, while also offering a stable and loving environment.
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Both adoption and fostering offer opportunities to build a family and share love with a child. These options can be particularly appealing for couples who are aware of the potential genetic risks associated with cousin dating but still desire a family unit.

Social and Cultural Considerations

It’s important to acknowledge that cousin dating can carry social and cultural stigmas. These stigmas may stem from historical and religious beliefs, or simply societal norms surrounding family relationships.

For couples in Massachusetts who choose to date or even marry their cousin, navigating these social and cultural stigmas can be challenging. Open communication, understanding, and support from loved ones can be crucial in overcoming these hurdles.

Ultimately, the decision to date a cousin in Massachusetts is a personal one. While the law allows it, couples should be aware of the potential genetic risks and explore options like genetic counseling and prenatal testing. Additionally, considering alternatives like adoption or fostering might be a viable path for some couples.


Dating a cousin in Massachusetts is entirely legal. However, couples considering such a relationship should be aware of the potential genetic risks associated with having children. Genetic counseling and prenatal testing can provide valuable information and help guide informed decisions. Additionally, adoption and fostering offer fulfilling alternatives for couples who desire a family unit but want to avoid the potential genetic risks.

Remember, a loving and supportive relationship can exist between cousins, regardless of societal norms. Open communication and a well-informed approach are key to navigating the complexities surrounding cousin dating in Massachusetts.

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