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

Cousin marriage is a topic that can create significant controversy. Some people consider it taboo or even morally wrong, but in some places in the world, it’s a common and long-standing tradition. The legality of the practice varies significantly between countries and even between states within the United States. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at Oregon law regarding cousin marriage.

Overview of Cousin Marriage Laws in the United States

The United States has a patchwork of laws concerning cousin marriage. Here’s a basic breakdown:

  • States where first-cousin marriage is legal: Arizona (with restrictions), California, Colorado, Maine, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and several others.
  • States where first-cousin marriage is illegal: Approximately 24 U.S. states.
  • States with varying restrictions: Several states have additional stipulations regarding cousin marriage, such as age requirements or required genetic counseling.

Oregon’s Stance on First-Cousin Marriage

Oregon law expressly prohibits marriage between first cousins. “First cousins” refers to individuals who share a common grandparent. This means that the children of your aunts and uncles are legally off-limits for marriage in Oregon.

Exceptions and Special Circumstances

There is one exception to the general rule prohibiting first-cousin marriage in Oregon. The law does allow first cousins by adoption to marry. This means that if you were adopted into a family and have cousins who were also adopted into the same family, you would be permitted to marry them.

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The Historical and Cultural Context of Cousin Marriage

Historically, cousin marriage was much more common in the United States and around the world. Arranged marriages within families were a way to consolidate power, preserve wealth, and maintain cultural and religious traditions. For instance, notable historical figures like Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein both married their first cousins.

While less frequent than in the past, cousin marriage is still practiced in some parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East, South Asia, and parts of Africa.

Arguments For and Against Cousin Marriage

The debate surrounding the legality and morality of cousin marriage often revolves around ethical issues and the potential for genetic risks.

Arguments For:

  • Personal Liberty: Some people argue that consenting adults should have the freedom to marry whomever they choose, regardless of familial ties.
  • Cultural Tradition: In some cultures, cousin marriage is a long-held tradition passed down through generations.
  • Love and Compatibility: Some couples may believe that they have a stronger connection with a cousin due to shared history and family values.

Arguments Against:

  • Increased Risk of Genetic Disorders: Research indicates that children born from first-cousin marriages have a slightly elevated risk of recessive genetic disorders. However, this risk must be considered in context – the overall chance remains relatively low.
  • Moral and Social Concerns: Some people consider cousin marriage to be morally wrong or socially taboo.
  • Legal Complications: Laws prohibiting cousin marriage can create legal hurdles and complications for families.

Alternatives to First-Cousin Marriage in Oregon

It’s important to understand that there are alternatives to marrying your first cousin in Oregon:

  • Marrying a More Distant Relative: Oregon permits marriage between more distant relatives. For example, second cousins (who share great-grandparents) can legally marry.
  • Long-term committed relationship: Cousins may choose to have a loving and committed relationship without the formality of marriage.
  • Marrying Outside the Family: It’s perfectly legal and socially acceptable in Oregon to marry someone who is not your relative.
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Resources and Support

If you are considering marrying your cousin in Oregon, you may find these resources helpful:

  • Oregon State Bar: Marriage in Oregon:
  • Genetic Counseling Services: A genetic counselor can explain the potential risks associated with marrying a close relative.
  • Family Therapy Services: If you’re facing family or social pressure related to cousin marriage, a therapist can help.

Important Considerations and Conclusion

While the topic of cousin marriage might seem straightforward, there are complexities to consider. Here are a few critical points:

  • The Impact on the Family: Pursuing a relationship with your first cousin can have a significant impact on family dynamics. Consider how this decision could affect your relationships with other relatives before proceeding.
  • State Recognition: Even if you marry your first cousin in a state where it’s legal, Oregon might not recognize the validity of the marriage. This could create challenges with issues like inheritance or joint tax filings.
  • Changing Perspectives: Public attitudes toward cousin marriage are shifting over time. What might be considered acceptable in some communities or cultures may not be in others.


Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to marry your cousin is a complex one with no easy answers. If you are considering this in Oregon, it’s crucial to weigh the legal restrictions, potential health risks, social dynamics, and your own personal values.

Important Disclaimer This article is intended to provide general information on the law and should not be interpreted as specific legal advice. If you have specific questions about cousin marriage or any other legal matter in Oregon, always consult with a qualified attorney.

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