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

Cousin marriage, the union of two individuals sharing a grandparent, is a practice with a long and complex history across various cultures. While some societies encourage or even require such marriages to strengthen family bonds, others have legal restrictions due to potential genetic risks. In the United States, laws regarding cousin marriage vary by state. This article delves into the specific legalities of cousin marriage in Indiana.

Indiana has a unique law concerning cousin marriage. Unlike many states that completely ban unions between first cousins, Indiana allows it under a specific condition. We will explore the details of this law, the reasoning behind it, and the regulations regarding marriage between other close relatives in the state.

Can First Cousins Marry in Indiana?

It’s crucial to distinguish between first cousins and cousins once removed. First cousins share a set of grandparents, whereas cousins once removed are the children of one’s first cousin. In Indiana, the law only pertains to first cousins marrying.

Currently, Indiana law prohibits marriage between first cousins unless both parties are 65 years of age or older [1]. This means that first cousins under 65 cannot legally marry in the state.

The age restriction is likely due to the increased risk of passing on certain genetic disorders when parents are closely related. As individuals age, the chance of having children with genetic issues statistically decreases. It’s important to note that cohabitation and sexual relations between first cousins are legal in Indiana regardless of age.

Marrying Other Relatives in Indiana

Indiana adheres to standard restrictions on marriage between other close relatives. Marriages between ancestors and descendants (parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, etc.) are strictly prohibited. Additionally, Indiana law forbids unions between siblings (full or half) and aunts/uncles with their nieces/nephews.

Genetic Risks of Cousin Marriage

While cousin marriage is not uncommon globally, it’s essential to acknowledge the potential genetic risks involved. Children born to first-cousin parents have a slightly higher chance of inheriting recessive genetic disorders. Recessive disorders occur when a child inherits a defective gene from both parents. Since first cousins share more DNA than unrelated individuals, the probability of inheriting the same defective gene from both parents increases.

However, it’s important to maintain perspective. The overall risk of a child born to first cousins having a genetic disorder remains relatively low. Studies suggest an approximate 4-5% increase compared to the average population [2]. Additionally, genetic counseling can be beneficial for couples considering marriage who are closely related. A counselor can assess potential risks and provide guidance for making informed decisions.

Social and Ethical Considerations of Cousin Marriage

Cousin marriage is deeply ingrained in certain cultures and religious practices. In some communities, it serves to strengthen family ties and preserve wealth within lineages. However, in other social contexts, concerns may arise regarding potential power imbalances or social pressures associated with such unions.

It’s important to acknowledge the diversity of perspectives on cousin marriage. While some societies fully embrace the practice, others may have reservations due to cultural or religious beliefs. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to marry a cousin should be a personal one, made with a clear understanding of both the legal and potential genetic implications.


In Indiana, first cousins can only marry if both individuals are 65 years of age or older. This law reflects a balance between respecting individual choices and mitigating potential genetic risks associated with closely related parents. Marriages between other close relatives, such as parents and children or siblings, are strictly prohibited in the state.

While cousin marriage carries a slightly increased risk of genetic disorders, the overall risk remains relatively low. Couples considering such a union can benefit from genetic counseling to make informed decisions. Ultimately, the legality and social acceptance of cousin marriage vary significantly across cultures and communities.

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MBS Staff
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