Is It Legal to Marry Your First Cousin in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois? The Answers May Surprise You
Before we get too deep into this, I want to make something perfectly clear. I did not write this article because I have eyes for any of my first cousins. I have been happily married for 20 years to a woman to who I have no blood relation whatsoever. Although, if you believe that we are all descended from Adam and Eve, you could argue that we are all blood-related. But, we won't go down that path. No, the reason I wrote this article is because of a graphic Reddit user, u/homesteader recently shared in the Kentucky subreddit. One that shows which states you can marry your first cousin with no stipulations, those where you can with some stipulations, and those where you absolutely cannot no matter how badly you want to. I must admit, like homesteader, I was surprised by the answers for our part of the country.
Can You Marry Your First Cousin in Indiana, Kentucky, or Illinois?
Chances are if you go back far enough in your family tree, you probably have some relatives who married despite the fact they were blood-related. My guess is, depending on what state they lived in, it's either never been illegal, or wasn't at the time they walked down the aisle.
Not to play into the stereotypes, but there were a few states where marrying your first cousin is perfectly legal that didn't surprise me, namely Alabama and Georgia. However, there were a few that were surprising. New York, Vermont, and California are all apparently totally cool with first cousins getting hitched. Love is love, I guess.
Two states that allow it, each have its own unique stipulation. Minnesota is only good with it if the cousin is "once removed," and Maine will only allow it after the kissing cousins complete genetic counseling, which essentially means they have to meet with a professional that will explain to them the potential genetic challenges their children may have if they decide to have any.
Here's how it breaks down for our three states in the midwest.
That's right. The Hoosier State is a-OK with you and a first cousin deciding to spend the rest of your lives in wedded bliss, but there is one catch. According to Indiana Code 31-11-1-2:
Two (2) individuals may not marry each other if the individuals are more closely related than second cousins. However, two (2) individuals may marry each other if the individuals are (1) first cousins; and (2) both at least sixty-five (65) years of age.
So, if you're under the age of 65, you'll have to keep that love a secret.
Like Indiana, the Land of Lincoln also allows first cousins to marry. But, you have to meet specific criteria first. Illinois Code 750 ILCS 5/212 (a)(4)(i) and (ii) states:
a marriage between first cousins is not prohibited if:
(i) both parties are 50 years of age or older; or
(ii) either party, at the time of application for a marriage license, presents for filing with the county clerk of the county in which the marriage is to be solemnized, a certificate signed by a licensed physician stating that the party to the proposed marriage is permanently and irreversibly sterile.
In layman's terms (the way I read it, anyway), you either have to wait until you're both 50 years old before you can exchange rings, or you can do it sooner if one of both of you is incapable of producing children.
I mean no disrespect to our neighbors south of the Ohio River, but as a native Hoosier, the joke has always been that the Commonwealth is populated with nothing more than inbred hillbillies. I know that's not the case, and I have several friends who live in Kentucky. Plus, my sister married a Kentucky native, so it's all in good fun, right? Anyway...of our three states, Kentucky is one of 23 states where you cannot marry a first cousin no matter the situation.
(1) No marriage shall be contracted between persons who are nearer of kin to each other by consanguinity*, whether of the whole or half-blood, than second cousins.
(2) Marriages prohibited by subsection (1) of this section are incestuous and void.
*a close relation or connection
Notice it says the two individuals cannot be closer than second cousins. So, as long as you're not first cousins, you can head to the courthouse and get the marriage license drawn up you lovebirds.