Is Dating Your Cousin Illegal in Iowa? Here’s What the Law Says

Have you ever wondered if it’s legal to date your cousin? This question might seem unusual, but it’s a surprisingly common one. Throughout history, cousin marriage has been practiced in many cultures, with some famous figures like Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein even marrying their first cousins. However, with growing awareness of genetics, the legality and ethics of cousin dating have become a topic of debate in modern society.

This article dives specifically into the legalities of dating your cousin in the state of Iowa. We’ll explore the relevant laws, potential risks, and ethical considerations surrounding this topic.

Laws Regarding Cousin Dating in the United States

Before delving into Iowa’s specific laws, let’s establish the general legal landscape for cousin dating in the United States. Unlike many countries that have restrictions on cousin marriage, the United States allows dating and marriage between first cousins in all 50 states. This legal stance originates from the historical notion of individual liberty and the right to marry whomever one chooses, as long as both parties are consenting adults.

However, this legal acceptance doesn’t diminish the historical context. In the past, particularly before the mid-1800s, cousin marriage was even encouraged in some parts of the US, especially among the upper class, as a way to maintain wealth within families. It wasn’t until the rise of scientific understanding of genetics that the potential risks associated with cousin marriage came to light.

Specifics of Iowa Law

Now, let’s address the situation in Iowa. In the Hawkeye State, dating your cousin is perfectly legal. There are no statutes or regulations prohibiting romantic relationships between first cousins or any other degree of cousins. This aligns with the broader legal framework of the United States regarding cousin dating.

For those seeking a more official source, Iowa Code section 144.3 outlines the prohibited marriages in the state. Notably, cousins are not included on this list.

It’s important to remember that while dating your cousin is legal, there might be county or city-specific ordinances that could potentially impact such relationships. However, such restrictions are highly unlikely.

Risks Associated with Cousin Dating

While the legality of dating your cousin is clear in Iowa, it’s crucial to consider the potential risks involved. The primary concern lies in genetics. When two closely related individuals, like cousins, have children, there’s an increased chance of passing on certain genetic disorders. This is because they share a larger pool of identical genes compared to couples who are not blood relatives.

These genetic disorders can vary in severity, ranging from mild conditions to serious birth defects. The specific risk factors depend on the couple’s family history and the presence of any known genetic diseases.

Here’s a crucial point: if you and your cousin are considering having children, consulting with a genetic counselor is essential. A genetic counselor can assess your family history, analyze potential risks, and provide informed guidance on family planning.

Ethical Considerations of Cousin Dating

Beyond the legal and genetic aspects, there are also ethical considerations surrounding cousin dating. Social norms often frown upon such relationships, particularly in Western cultures. This disapproval stems from the traditional concept of family and the potential for blurring emotional and physical boundaries.

Furthermore, some religious denominations have specific doctrines regarding cousin marriage. While some religions have no restrictions, others might advise against or even prohibit such unions. It’s important for couples to consider their own religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds when navigating this decision.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to date your cousin is a personal one.

Alternatives to Dating Within the Family

While dating your cousin might be legal in Iowa, it’s important to acknowledge the existence of a vast dating pool outside your immediate family. With the rise of online dating platforms and the increasing mobility of society, there are more opportunities than ever to meet potential partners who share your interests and values.

Here in Iowa, cities like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport offer vibrant social scenes with a diverse range of people. Stepping outside your family circle opens doors to new experiences and connections. Local social clubs, community events, or even volunteering organizations can be excellent avenues for meeting new people who could be a great match.

Remember, dating is a journey of discovery. By exploring options beyond your family, you open yourself up to the possibility of finding someone truly special and compatible on a deeper level.


In conclusion, dating your cousin is legal in the state of Iowa. There are no legal roadblocks, and Iowa Code section 144.3 explicitly excludes cousins from the list of prohibited marriages. However, this legal allowance doesn’t negate the potential risks and ethical considerations involved.

The increased chance of passing on genetic disorders in offspring of cousin couples is a significant concern. Consulting with a genetic counselor is highly recommended if you and your cousin are considering a serious relationship and potentially having children.

Beyond the legalities and genetics, there are social and cultural norms that might disapprove of cousin dating. Additionally, some religious doctrines might advise against such relationships.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to date your cousin rests with you. However, by being aware of the legalities, potential risks, and ethical considerations, you can make an informed choice. Remember, there’s a whole world of possibilities waiting outside your family circle. Explore the vast dating landscape that Iowa and the rest of the world have to offer, and you might just find the perfect partner who complements you in every way.

Additional Resources:

This blog post aimed to provide a comprehensive overview of the legalities, risks, and ethical considerations surrounding cousin dating in Iowa. By offering a balanced perspective, we hope to empower readers to make informed decisions about their personal lives.

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MBS Staff
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