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

The question of whether it’s legal to marry your cousin raises complex social, ethical, and legal concerns. While some cultures and societies find these unions acceptable, others have laws explicitly prohibiting them. This article will delve into the legality of cousin marriage in Louisiana, its historical context, arguments for and against such unions, and potential implications.

Cousin marriage, the union of individuals who are closely related, has been a topic of debate and cultural practice for centuries. Across the globe, the acceptance and legality of marrying your cousin varies significantly. In the United States, individual states have their own regulations governing such marriages. Louisiana, with its unique history and cultural influences, has specific laws in place.

Louisiana Law on Cousin Marriage

Currently, Louisiana permits marriage between first cousins. The relevant Louisiana statute states: “Marriage between cousins of the first degree is prohibited; however, nothing herein contained shall invalidate a marriage between cousins of the first degree when such marriage was contracted in another state which permits marriage between first cousins.” (Louisiana Civil Code Article 90)

This law’s history reflects changing social attitudes. In the past, Louisiana had stricter prohibitions on cousin marriages. However, these laws were gradually relaxed, eventually leading to the current legal situation.

Arguments For and Against Cousin Marriage

The debate surrounding cousin marriage centers on biological, social, and ethical considerations.

Biological Concerns

  • Increased Risk of Genetic Disorders: One of the primary arguments against cousin marriage is the increased risk of passing on recessive genetic disorders to offspring. Closely related individuals have a higher likelihood of carrying the same harmful recessive genes. When they have children, there’s an increased chance of those recessive genes being expressed, leading to a higher risk of genetic conditions.
  • Minimal Risk Arguments: Some argue that the risk of genetic disorders in children of first cousin marriages is often exaggerated. They cite studies suggesting that the increased risk is relatively small, particularly in populations with low rates of pre-existing genetic conditions.

Social and Ethical Considerations

  • Family Ties and Traditions: Supporters of cousin marriage sometimes emphasize its role in strengthening family bonds and preserving cultural traditions. In communities where cousin marriage is historically practiced, it may be seen as a normal and even desirable way to maintain family ties.
  • Potential Imbalances and Stigma: Opponents express concerns that cousin marriages can perpetuate familial power imbalances and lead to social stigmatization. They argue that such unions, especially when there are age or status differences between the cousins, can create potential for exploitation or abuse.

The Global Context

  • Cousin Marriage in Other US States: Laws governing cousin marriage differ across the US. Some states have outright bans, while others allow it under certain circumstances or unconditionally.
  • International Laws: Many countries have regulations concerning cousin marriage. Some countries, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia, have high rates of cousin marriage, often due to cultural traditions. Other countries have adopted stricter laws prohibiting or severely restricting the practice.


Cousin marriage has implications both for individuals and society at large.

  • Impact on Individuals and Families: Couples considering cousin marriage must weigh the potential benefits, such as strengthening family ties, against risks like increased health issues for offspring or social disapproval.
  • Broader Societal Debates: The issue of cousin marriage connects to broader societal debates about family structures, individual autonomy, and the role of the state in regulating social relationships. It can ignite discussions about cultural diversity, religious practices, and the extent of acceptable or desirable genetic screening.


The legality of cousin marriage in Louisiana, as well as the arguments surrounding the practice, reflect a complex interplay of biological, social, ethical, and legal considerations. While Louisiana law currently permits marriage between first cousins, the debate over this practice highlights the multifaceted nature of defining acceptable forms of marriage. This issue raises questions about the balance between individual choice, potential health risks, the protection of social norms, and the role of the state in regulating personal relationships.


To create a truly well-researched long-form article, you’ll want to gather reliable sources. Here’s where you might look:

  • Louisiana Legal Resources:
    • The Louisiana Civil Code (searchable online)
    • Louisiana State Legislature website for historical changes to the law
    • Law libraries within Louisiana
  • Medical and Genetic Studies:
    • Research publications on the genetic risks of consanguineous marriages (cousin marriage). Look for reputable medical journals like “The Journal of the American Medical Association” (JAMA) or “Genetics in Medicine.”
    • The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) may offer resources or position statements.
  • Sociological and Anthropological Studies:
    • Academic papers on the cultural practices and social implications of cousin marriage both in the US and across the globe.
    • Organizations like the American Anthropological Association might have relevant information.
  • News and Opinion:
    • Reputable news outlets for articles on specific cases in Louisiana related to cousin marriage.
    • Search for op-eds or editorials presenting different perspectives on the issue.

Important Note: When using sources, ensure they are credible and examine multiple perspectives to avoid bias.

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MBS Staff
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