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

Cousin marriage, the union of two individuals related as first cousins, is a practice with a long history in various parts of the world. While some cultures view it favorably, others have legal restrictions in place. This article specifically focuses on the legality of cousin marriage in the state of New Mexico, United States.

Legality of Cousin Marriage in the United States

The United States has a decentralized legal system regarding cousin marriage. There is no federal law prohibiting cousin marriage, leaving the authority to regulate it to individual states. State laws on cousin marriage vary considerably. Some states, like New Mexico, allow first-cousin marriage without restrictions, while others prohibit it entirely or with certain limitations (e.g., if one cousin is underage).

Legality of Cousin Marriage in New Mexico

In New Mexico, cousin marriage is legal. There are no statutes or legal codes in the state that prohibit marriages between first cousins. This means that couples who are first cousins can marry in New Mexico without violating any laws.

It is important to note that this legality applies only to first-cousin marriages. Marriages between closer relatives, such as siblings or parents and children, are illegal in New Mexico and throughout the United States. Additionally, some counties in New Mexico may have specific marriage license application procedures in place, so it is advisable to check with the local county clerk’s office for any additional requirements.

Risks Associated with Cousin Marriage

While legal in New Mexico, cousin marriage carries increased genetic risks for the offspring of the couple. Children born to cousin marriages have a higher chance of inheriting recessive genetic disorders. Normally, each parent contributes one copy of a gene for each trait. In recessive disorders, a child needs to inherit two copies of the recessive gene to develop the condition. When parents are close relatives, like cousins, they share more genes than unrelated parents. This increases the possibility of both parents passing down the same recessive gene, raising the risk of the child inheriting the disorder.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the risk of a child inheriting a birth defect is about 3-4% for the general population. However, for children born to cousin marriages, this risk can increase to 4-7%. ACOG recommends genetic counseling for couples considering cousin marriage to understand the specific risks associated with their family history.

Cultural and Religious Considerations of Cousin Marriage

Cousin marriage is practiced in some cultures and religions around the world. It can be seen as a way to strengthen family bonds, keep wealth within the family, or follow religious traditions. Some regions with a higher prevalence of cousin marriage include the Middle East, South Asia, and parts of North Africa.

Alternatives to Consider Before a Cousin Marriage

Couples who are considering marriage and are first cousins are highly encouraged to seek genetic counseling. Genetic counseling is a specialized service provided by trained healthcare professionals. Genetic counselors have expertise in evaluating family medical history and assessing potential risks for specific genetic conditions that may be inherited by offspring from related parents.

During genetic counseling, the counselor will typically:

  • Gather Information: Take a detailed family medical history of both partners.
  • Assess Risk: Evaluate the specific risk of genetic disorders based on the couple’s relationship and family history.
  • Provide Education: Explain the science behind inherited disorders and the potential impact on offspring.
  • Offer Options: Discuss options like genetic testing and assisted reproductive technologies that may be available to the couple.

By undergoing genetic counseling, couples can make informed decisions about their family planning and reduce the risk of passing on genetic disorders to their children. To find genetic counselors in New Mexico, you can use resources like the National Society of Genetic Counselors website (


In conclusion, cousin marriage is legal in the state of New Mexico. However, couples considering cousin marriage should be fully aware of the potential risks involved. While it may be a culturally accepted practice in some families or communities, it carries a higher chance of offspring inheriting genetic disorders.

It is highly recommended for couples considering cousin marriage to seek genetic counseling and explore alternatives available to them. By understanding the risks and making informed decisions based on personalized medical advice, couples can plan their families responsibly and promote the health and well-being of their future children.


Disclaimer The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be taken as substitute for professional medical or legal advice. It is essential to consult your doctor and understand any legal requirements within your jurisdiction before making any decisions about cousin marriage planning.

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MBS Staff
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