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

The topic of cousin marriage often raises questions about legality, ethics, and potential health risks. While the practice is culturally taboo in many places, some states in the US have varying laws around marriages between cousins. This article explores the legal stance on cousin marriage in Nevada, delving into relevant laws and the broader societal context.

Cousin Marriage: A Brief Overview

  • Defining Cousins:
    • First cousins share a set of grandparents.
    • Second cousins share a set of great-grandparents.
    • The further removed the cousins are, the less genetic material they share.
  • Historical and Cultural Context: Cousin marriage has been practiced in various cultures throughout history. In some societies, it was even preferred for reasons including keeping wealth and property within the family or strengthening social ties. However, changing social norms and scientific understanding of genetics have led to increased scrutiny and restrictions in many places.

Nevada Law on Cousin Marriage

  • Nevada permits marriage between cousins of at least half-blood relationship. This means first cousins are prohibited from marrying in Nevada. However, cousins who share only one grandparent (half-cousins) or more distant cousin relationships are permitted to marry.

Restrictions and Requirements

  • Age Restrictions: Nevada, like most states, has a minimum age requirement for marriage, generally 18 years old. Minors may marry with parental consent and judicial approval in certain cases.
  • Health Considerations: Nevada does not currently mandate health screenings or genetic counseling specifically for cousin couples seeking marriage.
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Societal Debate and Considerations

  • Arguments in Favor:
    • Individual Rights: Some advocate that prohibiting cousin marriage infringes on personal liberty and the right of consenting adults to choose their partners.
    • Cultural Traditions: In some cultures, cousin marriage might be a long-standing tradition with social and familial significance.
  • Arguments Against:
    • Health Risks: Scientific evidence suggests increased risks for birth defects and recessive genetic disorders in children born to closely related parents.
    • Ethical Concerns: Some argue that cousin marriage goes against prevailing social norms and could lead to potential issues within families related to power dynamics and exploitation.

Genetic Considerations

  • Elevated Risks: While the overall risk of genetic problems for any couple is relatively low, children of first-cousin unions have a slightly increased chance of inheriting harmful recessive genes. This risk decreases with more distant cousin relationships.
  • Genetic Counseling: Couples considering cousin marriage may benefit from genetic counseling to understand potential risks and make informed decisions.

States Where Cousin Marriage is Legal

  • The legality of cousin marriage varies significantly across the United States. Many states allow first-cousin marriage, some with restrictions, while others completely prohibit it.


Nevada adopts a middle-ground approach on cousin marriage, prohibiting unions between first cousins while permitting marriage between more distant cousins. The debate surrounding this issue continues, fueled by concerns about individual freedoms, cultural practices, and the potential health implications for future generations.

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