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

The topic of cousin marriage often raises questions about legality, morality, and cultural traditions. Marrying a close relative can seem strange or even taboo in some societies, while perfectly acceptable in others. If you’re wondering about the rules regarding cousin marriage in the state of Oklahoma, this article provides a clear overview.

Oklahoma Law on Cousin Marriage

Oklahoma law expressly forbids marriages between first cousins. Oklahoma Statute Title 43 Section 3 defines relationships that are prohibited for marriage. This law states that you cannot marry an ancestor, descendant, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew. Since first cousins share a common grandparent, they fall within the prohibited degrees of relationship for marriage within the state.

Historical Context of Cousin Marriage

While marrying your cousin might seem unusual now, it’s important to remember that cousin marriages were significantly more common throughout history and across various cultures. In some societies, marrying a first cousin was even a preferred practice for several reasons:

  • Consolidation of Resources: Cousin marriage helped families keep wealth, property, or land holdings within the extended family.
  • Strengthening Alliances: Marriages between cousins could solidify social and political connections between families.
  • Cultural Preservation: In some cultures, cousin marriage was a way to ensure the continuation of specific religious or cultural traditions within the family.

Several famous figures throughout history married their first cousins, including Charles Darwin (who married Emma Wedgwood), Albert Einstein (who married Elsa Löwenthal), and Edgar Allan Poe (who married Virginia Clemm).

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Reasons for Restrictions

There are two primary reasons behind legal restrictions on cousin marriage in Oklahoma and many other places:

  • Genetic Concerns: Children born from closely related parents have a slightly increased risk of inheriting recessive genetic disorders. While the individual risk for any single couple might be small, public health concerns arise if cousin marriage becomes widespread within a population.
  • Social and Ethical Considerations: Some object to cousin marriage based on concerns about potentially unequal power dynamics within families, especially if there’s a large age difference between cousins. Others view the practice as going against established social norms or blurring essential familial roles.

Arguments in Favor of Cousin Marriage

Despite the legal restrictions, some people advocate for the right of consenting adults to marry their cousins, arguing:

  • Personal Liberty: Proponents believe that the government should not interfere with the fundamental right of two consenting adults to marry, regardless of their familial relationship.
  • Cultural Traditions: In cultures where cousin marriage is a long-held tradition, advocates see it as an important way to maintain family bonds and uphold essential cultural values.

Other U.S. States and Global Perspective

The legality of cousin marriage is a patchwork across the United States:

  • Outright Bans: Many states, including Oklahoma, have laws explicitly prohibiting first-cousin marriage.
  • Restrictions: Some states allow cousin marriage only with certain provisions, such as requirements for genetic counseling or stipulations that couples be above a certain age.
  • Permitted: A few states still permit first-cousin marriages without restriction.

Globally, cousin marriage remains relatively common in certain regions, particularly in the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of South Asia.

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Alternatives to Cousin Marriage

First cousins in love who live in a state where their marriage would be illegal face difficult choices. Some potential alternatives include:

  • Commitment Ceremony: Couples could hold a non-legally binding commitment ceremony to express their love and devotion to one another.
  • Family Building: Exploring adoption or fostering children can be a fulfilling way to create a family.
  • Remaining Unmarried: Couples may choose to remain unmarried but build a strong and loving relationship, potentially with support and recognition from their extended family.


  1. Is it illegal to marry my first cousin in Oklahoma?
  1. Are there any exceptions to the ban on cousin marriage in Oklahoma?
  • No, Oklahoma does not have any exceptions to this law. Even if both cousins are of legal age and consenting, marriage between them is illegal.
  1. Can I get in trouble for having a sexual relationship with my first cousin in Oklahoma?
  • While Oklahoma Statute Title 21 §886 covers incest, it’s focused on relationships where there’s a clearer power imbalance (parent-child, etc.). Sexual relationships between adult first cousins are not explicitly criminalized, but may still be strongly frowned upon.
  1. What about marrying my second cousin in Oklahoma?
  • Oklahoma law allows marriage between second cousins (people who share great-grandparents). The restrictions apply only to first cousins and closer relationships.
  1. Why does Oklahoma ban cousin marriage?
  • The primary reasons are concerns about potential genetic risks to children born from closely related parents, along with social and ethical considerations about family dynamics and societal norms.
  1. What if I marry my cousin in a state where it’s legal and then move to Oklahoma?
  • Oklahoma might recognize your marriage under certain circumstances (Oklahoma Statute Title 43 Section 3). However, it’s important to consult an attorney specializing in family law for accurate guidance based on your specific situation.
  1. Where can I find more information about the laws governing marriage in Oklahoma?
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In Oklahoma, the law is unambiguous – marrying your first cousin is illegal. Understanding the complex arguments for and against cousin marriage is essential for informed discussion on the issue. While there are diverse perspectives on this topic, it’s important to respect different viewpoints and adhere to the laws in place within your jurisdiction.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information and should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you have specific questions or concerns about marriage laws in Oklahoma, please consult with a qualified legal professional.

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