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

The idea of marrying a close relative, such as a cousin, might seem unusual or even taboo in many cultures. Yet, historically cousin marriages have been practiced across the globe for various reasons, including preserving family ties, consolidating wealth, and maintaining cultural traditions. In the United States, the legality of cousin marriages varies from state to state. So, what about Michigan? Can you legally marry your first cousin in the Great Lakes State?

Michigan Law on Cousin Marriage

While many states in the US prohibit first-cousin marriage, Michigan law is more permissive. In Michigan, it is legal for first cousins to get married. This means that individuals who are the children of siblings are not restricted by law from marrying each other in the state.

The Debate Surrounding Cousin Marriage

The legality of cousin marriage is frequently a subject of debate, with scientific, ethical, and social arguments presented on both sides.

  • Scientific and Genetic Concerns: One of the primary arguments against cousin marriage centers on the increased risk of passing down recessive genetic disorders to offspring. Closely related individuals have a higher likelihood of carrying the same recessive genes, raising the chance of their children inheriting two copies that could lead to serious health conditions.
  • Ethical and Social Arguments: Beyond the scientific aspect, there are also ethical and social concerns associated with cousin marriage. Some argue that it can blur familial roles and potentially create complex family dynamics. Others express concerns about the social stigma that might be attached to these unions.
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Alternatives to First-Cousin Marriage in Michigan

While first-cousin marriage is legal in Michigan, there are alternatives for those who might have reservations due to the arguments mentioned above:

  • Marrying Cousins Once-Removed: In Michigan, individuals can marry their first cousin once-removed. This means the potential spouses share a great-grandparent rather than a grandparent, therefore reducing the genetic risks associated with first-cousin unions.
  • Considering Other States: For couples determined to marry, another option would be to travel to one of the many US states where first-cousin marriage is fully legal. It’s important to remember that while the marriage might be recognized elsewhere, it’s crucial to research any potential legal hurdles upon returning to Michigan.

The Process of Getting Married in Michigan

If you’re considering marriage in Michigan, here are the essential steps involved:

  1. Obtain a Marriage License: Both individuals need to apply in person for a marriage license at their local county clerk’s office. You’ll need to provide proof of identification and age.
  2. Waiting Period: In Michigan, there’s a mandatory three-day waiting period between receiving the license and getting married.
  3. Officiant: The marriage ceremony needs to be officiated by an authorized individual, such as a judge, justice of the peace, or religious leader.
  4. Witnesses: The marriage ceremony typically requires two witnesses to be present.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are there any restrictions for cousin marriages in Michigan? Michigan only restricts marriages between individuals directly related in a linear way (parents, children, siblings, etc.).
  • What are the arguments in favor of cousin marriage? Proponents may argue for individual freedoms and the right to choose a spouse, as well as point to the historical prevalence of cousin marriages.
  • Can second cousins get married in Michigan? Yes, second cousins and more distant relatives can legally marry in Michigan.
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The legality of cousin marriage in Michigan highlights the complex and often controversial nature of this issue. While Michigan law permits first-cousin marriages, the scientific, ethical, and social debates surrounding the topic persist. It’s crucial for individuals considering such a union to carefully weigh the potential risks, benefits, and the potential impact on their familial relationships.

If you have further questions or concerns about the legal implications of cousin marriage in Michigan, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney specializing in family law.


Disclaimer This article offers legal information but should not be considered a substitute for professional legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney for guidance on specific situations and legal matters.

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