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

The question of whether it’s legal to marry your cousin is surprisingly complex. Laws regarding cousin marriage vary significantly from state to state within the United States, and globally. While some cultures have historically encouraged cousin marriage, others have strong taboos or legal prohibitions against it. This article will delve into the specifics of Massachusetts law regarding cousin marriages.

Massachusetts Law on Cousin Marriage

  • Current Legal Status: Massachusetts is one of the most permissive states in the US regarding cousin marriage. It is legal for first cousins to marry in Massachusetts. This means that individuals who share a set of grandparents are legally allowed to wed.
  • Historical Context: Massachusetts has a relatively long history of permitting cousin marriages. While some states have historically banned first-cousin unions, Massachusetts has consistently allowed them.

Reasons for Restrictions on Cousin Marriage

  • Genetic Concerns: The primary argument against cousin marriage centers around potential genetic risks for offspring. Closely related individuals have a higher chance of sharing recessive genes that can lead to birth defects or genetic disorders. The risk increases with closer biological relationships.
  • Social and Cultural Considerations: In many societies, cousin marriage is seen as taboo or socially unacceptable. There might be concerns about maintaining diverse family structures, social power dynamics within families, and the potential for exploitation.

Arguments in Favor of Cousin Marriage

  • Personal Freedom and Autonomy: Advocates of cousin marriage argue that the government should not interfere in individuals’ personal choices regarding marriage partners. They stress the importance of individual freedom and the right to choose one’s spouse.
  • Cultural Traditions: In some cultures around the world, cousin marriage has been a common practice for centuries. These traditions are often tied to maintaining familial bonds, property, or cultural identity.
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The Global Perspective

  • Prevalence of Cousin Marriage: It’s estimated that globally, over 10% of marriages are between cousins. Cousin marriage is particularly prevalent in regions like the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of South Asia.
  • Varying Laws and Cultural Attitudes: Laws regarding cousin marriage differ widely across the globe. Some countries have outright bans, while others allow the practice with varying degrees of restriction. Cultural attitudes towards cousin marriage also range from strong acceptance to significant disapproval.

Alternatives to Cousin Marriage

  • Genetic Counseling: Couples who are closely related and considering marriage may benefit from genetic counseling. Genetic counselors can assess potential risks for offspring and provide information to help couples make informed decisions about family planning.


The legality of cousin marriage in Massachusetts reflects the state’s permissive stance on the issue. While there are valid concerns about the potential genetic risks associated with cousin marriage, Massachusetts law ultimately upholds the right of individuals to choose their marriage partners. The global variation in laws and attitudes towards cousin marriage highlights the complex ethical and cultural considerations surrounding this topic.

Important Note: This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have specific questions about cousin marriage, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney specializing in family law in Massachusetts.

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