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

Cousin marriage, the union of two individuals related as first cousins, is a practice with a long history and varying legal statuses around the world. While some countries and states have outlawed it due to potential health risks, others allow it entirely or with certain restrictions. In this article, we will specifically address the legality of cousin marriage in the state of New Mexico.

Legality of Cousin Marriage in New Mexico

In the state of New Mexico, cousin marriage is legal. There are no restrictions on individuals marrying their first cousins, once removed cousins (children of a first cousin), or even first cousins once removed (children of a cousin once removed). This legality is codified in New Mexico Statutes Annotated Section 40-1-2 [1], which outlines the eligibility requirements for marriage licenses. The statute simply states that a marriage license may be issued to two individuals who are not already married to someone else, haven’t been issued a marriage license within the past 30 days, and are not “closer than first cousins by blood.” The absence of the phrase “closer than” implies that marriage between first cousins is permitted.

History of Cousin Marriage Laws in New Mexico

New Mexico’s legal stance on cousin marriage appears to have remained consistent throughout its history. There is no record of any significant legislative debates or attempts to outlaw the practice. This may be due to the state’s diverse cultural landscape, where some communities may view cousin marriage more favorably than others.

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Potential Risks of Cousin Marriage

While legal in New Mexico, cousin marriage does carry some potential health risks. Offspring of cousin marriages have a slightly higher chance of inheriting recessive genetic disorders. This is because cousins share more DNA than unrelated couples. When both parents carry a copy of a recessive gene for a particular disorder, the child has an increased risk of inheriting the condition. Common recessive genetic disorders include cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, and sickle cell anemia [2].

The March of Dimes, a leading organization for pregnancy and newborn health, advises couples considering cousin marriage to undergo genetic counseling [3]. A genetic counselor can assess the couple’s carrier status for specific genetic disorders and explain the potential risks to their offspring.

Cultural and Religious Considerations of Cousin Marriage

Cousin marriage is accepted and even encouraged in certain cultures and religions around the world. In some communities, it is seen as a way to strengthen family bonds and keep wealth within the family. For example, cousin marriage is legal and practiced in some Middle Eastern and South Asian countries [4]. It is important to acknowledge this cultural context and avoid making generalizations about the practice.


In conclusion, cousin marriage is legal in the state of New Mexico. There are no legal restrictions on individuals marrying their first cousins or even closer relatives. However, it is crucial to be aware of the potential health risks associated with cousin marriage, particularly the increased chance of recessive genetic disorders in offspring. Couples contemplating cousin marriage are strongly advised to seek genetic counseling to understand the potential risks and make informed decisions.

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It is also important to recognize the cultural and religious aspects of cousin marriage, where it may be a socially accepted practice.

Additional Sections to Consider

  • Prevalence of Cousin Marriage in New Mexico and the US
    • Provide statistics on the percentage of cousin marriages in the state of New Mexico.
    • Compare these numbers to national averages.
    • Include data about trends over time – are cousin marriages becoming more or less common?
  • Arguments For and Against Laws Banning Cousin Marriage
    • Arguments for a ban:
      • Primarily focus on the prevention of genetic disorders.
      • The state’s responsibility to protect public health.
    • Arguments against a ban:
      • Personal liberty and the right to choose a spouse.
      • Cultural or religious significance of cousin marriage traditions.
      • Difficulty of enforcing such laws.
  • Alternatives to an Outright Ban
    • Discuss mandatory genetic counseling for all couples related by blood considering marriage.
    • Increased public health awareness campaigns on the potential risks of cousin marriage.
    • Potential waiting periods for marriage licenses for cousins to allow for careful consideration.

How to Enhance the Existing Article

You can improve the current draft in a few ways:

  • Example Stories: Adding brief, anonymized examples of couples in New Mexico who have chosen cousin marriage would make the article more engaging Highlight the various reasons behind their decision (cultural, personal, etc.).
  • Expert Opinions: Interview a geneticist in New Mexico for their perspective on the medical aspects. Seek the insight of a cultural anthropologist or sociologist to shed light on the cultural significance of cousin marriage.
  • National Context: Briefly compare New Mexico’s legal stance with that of other US states to offer a broader context to the reader.
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Important Note Be sure to maintain a neutral and objective tone throughout the article. The goal is to inform readers about the legality, risks, and cultural context of cousin marriage, rather than advocate for or against the practice.


  1. New Mexico Statutes Annotated:
  2. March of Dimes:
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  4. Articles and Data on the Global Practice of Cousin Marriage:

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