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

Imagine growing up in a small town, surrounded by rolling hills and friendly faces. You and your childhood best friend, Sarah, were inseparable. Years pass, and your playful bond deepens into something more. However, a shadow falls over your blossoming romance. You discover you’re not just best friends – you’re cousins. This newfound knowledge throws your world into disarray. Love simmers against the whispers of societal norms and legal restrictions. Is your relationship with Sarah doomed in the state of Maine?

This scenario, though fictional, reflects a real situation faced by some Maine residents. Dating a cousin might seem unconventional, but is it actually illegal? Let’s delve into the legal landscape of cousin relationships in the state of Maine and explore the factors surrounding this complex topic.

Laws Regarding Cousin Marriage in the United States

Across the United States, there’s a general trend of permitting marriage between cousins. Unlike some countries with stricter regulations, most states in the US don’t consider cousin marriage inherently problematic. This legal stance has historical roots. In the vast, sparsely populated America of the past, marrying within a limited social circle, including cousins, was sometimes unavoidable. However, there are exceptions. A handful of states, including Alabama, Arkansas, and West Virginia, still have laws prohibiting marriage between first cousins.

Diving Deeper: Maine’s Specific Laws on Cousin Marriage

The state of Maine falls somewhere in the middle ground. Marrying a first cousin is generally prohibited, but there’s a crucial exception. If both partners undergo genetic counseling and receive a certificate from a physician verifying this counseling, they can apply for a marriage license. However, obtaining the license isn’t guaranteed. The state reserves the right to deny the application, even with genetic counseling documentation.

So, while dating your cousin isn’t illegal in Maine, marriage becomes a complex issue with significant hurdles.

Why Does Maine Have Laws Against Cousin Marriage?

The primary reason behind Maine’s restrictions on cousin marriage relates to potential health risks for offspring. Children born to parents who are close relatives have a higher chance of inheriting certain genetic disorders. This increased risk stems from recessive genes. Normally, a child inherits one copy of a gene from each parent. If both parents carry a copy of the same recessive gene for a particular disorder, the child has a higher probability of inheriting the condition. Since cousins share a portion of their DNA, the odds of them both carrying the same recessive gene are slightly higher than for unrelated couples.

Let’s illustrate this with a simplified example. Imagine a gene responsible for a specific genetic disorder is recessive. A person might carry one copy of this gene without any symptoms. If their partner also carries the same recessive gene, their offspring has a 25% chance of inheriting both copies and developing the disorder. This risk increases slightly when the parents are cousins, as they might share a higher chance of carrying the same recessive gene.

It’s important to remember that this is a simplified example, and genetics is a complex field. However, it highlights the potential health concerns associated with cousin marriage.

Alternatives to Consider if You’re Dating Your Cousin in Maine

Finding yourself in a romantic relationship with a cousin in Maine presents a challenging situation. Here are some options to consider:

  • Ending the romantic relationship: This might be a difficult decision, but it’s crucial to weigh the potential health risks for any future children. Prioritizing their well-being should be a top concern. There are resources available to help navigate the emotional complexities of ending a relationship. Consider seeking support from therapists or counselors specializing in relationship issues.
  • Relocating to a state where cousin marriage is legal: This option requires significant planning and life changes. Some states with relaxed laws regarding cousin marriage include Colorado, Utah, and Iowa. However, relocating solely for the purpose of marriage poses logistical and emotional challenges. Carefully weigh the pros and cons before making such a drastic decision.
  • Genetic counseling: Regardless of the path you choose, genetic counseling can be incredibly beneficial. A genetic counselor can assess your individual situation, explain the specific risks associated with your family history, and provide guidance tailored to your circumstances. This information can empower you to make informed decisions about your relationship and future family planning.

Considering the Bigger Picture: Love, Health, and Responsibility

Love is a powerful force, and sometimes it blossoms in unexpected places. However, when considering a relationship with a cousin, it’s vital to acknowledge the potential health risks for offspring. The increased chance of inheriting genetic disorders is a significant factor that shouldn’t be ignored.

Love also comes with responsibility. The well-being of potential children should be a top priority when making decisions about relationships. While emotions run high, prioritizing their health creates a foundation for a loving and responsible future.


Dating a cousin in Maine presents a complex legal and ethical situation. While marriage faces legal hurdles, the bigger concern lies in the potential health risks for children. Weighing the power of love against the importance of responsible procreation is a crucial step.

This article doesn’t advocate for or against cousin relationships. It aims to provide information and highlight the factors involved. Ultimately, the decision rests with the individuals involved.

If you’re considering a relationship with a cousin in Maine, here are some key takeaways:

  • Marrying a first cousin generally requires genetic counseling and approval from the state.
  • Cousin marriage carries a slightly increased risk of genetic disorders in offspring.
  • Prioritizing the health of potential children is crucial.
  • Genetic counseling can provide valuable information and guidance.

Remember, resources are available to help navigate this complex situation. Consider seeking support from therapists, counselors, and genetic counselors to make informed decisions for your future.

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MBS Staff
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