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

For centuries, cousin marriages have been a common practice in many cultures around the world. From the royal families of Europe to some indigenous communities, cousins have tied the knot for generations. Even some famous figures, like Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin, married their first cousins. However, in the modern world, there are increasing concerns about the genetic health risks associated with cousin marriages. This has led to legal restrictions in many countries and states.

This blog post will specifically address the legality of dating and marrying cousins in the state of West Virginia. We will explore the relevant laws and regulations, as well as delve into some potential risks and considerations. It’s important to note that this blog post is not a substitute for legal advice. If you have specific questions about the law, it’s always best to consult with an attorney in your area.

Laws Regarding Cousin Marriage in the United States

In the United States, there is no federal law that prohibits cousin marriage. However, each state has its own laws governing marriage licenses and restrictions. Generally speaking, most states allow first-cousin marriage, with some exceptions for close relatives like siblings, parents, and children.

Here are a few examples to illustrate the variation across states:

  • Virginia: Neighboring Virginia does not have any laws prohibiting marriage between cousins.
  • Maryland: Another bordering state, Maryland, also allows cousin marriages. In fact, Maryland’s lax marriage laws have even attracted couples from nearby states seeking to marry their cousins where it might be restricted [1].

Legality of Dating and Marrying Cousins in West Virginia

Unlike its neighbors, West Virginia has a specific law that prohibits marriage between certain close relatives, including first cousins. This law is outlined in West Virginia Code § 47-1-2 [2]. The statute states that a man cannot marry his mother, sister, daughter, first cousin, or double cousin, and vice versa for women.

Therefore, according to West Virginia law, marrying your cousin is illegal. It’s important to remember that dating, on the other hand, is not explicitly addressed in this code. However, since the law prohibits marriage, it would stand to reason that dating a cousin would also be strongly discouraged.

Potential Risks of Cousin Marriage (Optional Section)

While the legality of dating a cousin in West Virginia is a clear-cut issue, there are also some potential health risks associated with cousin marriage that are worth considering. When two closely related individuals have children, there is an increased chance of passing on certain genetic disorders. These disorders can occur because both parents may carry recessive genes for the same condition. When these genes are passed on to offspring, the risk of developing the disorder increases.

Here are some additional considerations regarding cousin marriage:

  • Social and Ethical Concerns: In some cultures, cousin marriage might be frowned upon due to social norms and religious beliefs. It’s important to be sensitive to these cultural considerations, especially if you or your potential partner comes from a background where cousin marriage is not widely accepted.

Alternatives to Consider

If you find yourself attracted to a cousin but are concerned about the legal or health implications, there are other avenues to explore for finding a romantic partner. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Expanding Your Social Circle: Consider joining clubs, groups, or activities that align with your interests. This is a great way to meet new people who share similar hobbies or passions.
  • Online Dating Platforms: Online dating platforms can be a helpful tool for expanding your dating pool and connecting with potential partners who live outside of your immediate social circle. However, it’s important to use online dating platforms with caution and to be mindful of safety precautions.


In conclusion, dating and marrying a cousin is illegal in the state of West Virginia. This law is in place to help protect individuals from the potential health risks associated with cousin marriage. While dating a cousin may not be explicitly outlawed, it’s important to consider the legal and health implications before pursuing such a relationship. There are many other ways to meet potential partners, and focusing on expanding your social circle or exploring online dating platforms can be a fruitful approach.

Ultimately, the decision of who to date is a personal one. However, by understanding the laws and potential risks associated with cousin marriage, you can make an informed choice that is best for you.

Additional Considerations

  • Cultural Norms: It’s important to acknowledge that cultural norms around cousin marriage vary greatly. While some cultures have a long history of cousin marriage, others may view it as taboo. If you or your potential partner comes from a culture with strong opinions on cousin marriage, it’s crucial to be sensitive to those beliefs and traditions. Open communication and respect for each other’s backgrounds are essential in such situations.
  • Genetic Counseling: If you are seriously considering a relationship with a cousin and are concerned about potential genetic risks, it might be beneficial to seek genetic counseling. A genetic counselor can provide information about the specific risks associated with your family history and can help you make informed decisions about family planning.
  • Legal Updates: Laws can change over time, so it’s always recommended to consult with an attorney to get the most up-to-date legal advice on cousin marriage in West Virginia.

Seeking Help

If you are struggling with feelings of attraction towards a cousin and are unsure how to proceed, there are resources available to help. Talking to a therapist or counselor can provide a safe space to explore your feelings and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Remember: You are not alone. Many people find themselves attracted to relatives, and there is no shame in seeking help to navigate this complex situation.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or medical advice. Please consult with an attorney for legal guidance and a healthcare professional for medical advice.

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MBS Staff
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