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

The legality of marrying one’s cousin varies around the world. Some cultures and religions may view it as acceptable or even encouraged, while others strictly prohibit such unions. In the United States, the laws regarding cousin marriages differ from state to state. This article explores the specific question: Is it illegal to marry your cousin in the state of Oregon?

Oregon Law and Cousin Marriages

Oregon law expressly prohibits marriage between first cousins. Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 106.020 states:

“A marriage may not be solemnized when the parties are nearer of kin to each other than first cousins, whether of the whole or half-blood, computing by the rules of the civil law, except when the parties are first cousins by adoption.”

This means that individuals who share a common grandparent are not permitted to marry within the state of Oregon. However, there is an exception made for first cousins by adoption.

Historical and Cultural Perspectives on Cousin Marriage

Historically, cousin marriage was a common practice in many parts of the world, including Europe and the Middle East. Reasons for these unions were varied, including:

  • Maintaining Property and Wealth: Marrying within the family kept wealth and property within the extended family.
  • Strengthening Social Alliances: Cousin marriages were used to solidify existing relationships or forge new alliances between families.
  • Cultural or Religious Traditions: Some cultures and religions viewed or continue to view marriage between cousins favorably.

In the United States, cousin marriage was relatively common in the 19th century. However, a societal shift occurred due to concerns about potential genetic risks associated with children born from such unions. Currently, cousin marriage is either banned or heavily restricted in many states.

Potential Genetic Risks

One of the principal arguments against cousin marriage centers on the increased potential for genetic disorders in children born from closely related parents. First cousins share approximately 12.5% of their genes. This means there is a higher probability they both carry a recessive gene for the same disorder. If both parents are carriers, there is a heightened risk the child will inherit two copies of the recessive gene and develop the disorder.

Some genetic conditions potentially associated with a higher risk among children of cousin marriages include:

  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Tay-Sachs Disease
  • Phenylketonuria (PKU)

It’s important to note that while the risk is increased, the absolute chances of a child of first cousins developing a genetic disorder remain relatively low.

Arguments For and Against Cousin Marriage

Arguments Against Cousin Marriage

  • Increased Genetic Risks: The primary concern focuses on the potential for a higher likelihood of genetic disorders in offspring.
  • Societal Stigma: Cousin marriages often invoke negative stereotypes and social disapproval.
  • Legal Restrictions: Legal barriers prevent first-cousin marriages in many jurisdictions.

Arguments in Favor of Cousin Marriage

  • Personal Liberty: Supporters believe individuals should have the freedom to marry the person they love, regardless of familial relationships.
  • Cultural and Religious Traditions: For some, cousin marriage holds cultural or religious significance that overrides legal or health concerns.
  • Minimized Risk: Advocates may argue that the increased risk of genetic disorders is minimal and can be mitigated through genetic counseling.

Alternatives to Traditional Marriage for Cousins

For cousins in Oregon who wish to solidify their union, there are alternatives to traditional marriage:

  • Commitment Ceremony: A symbolic ceremony celebrating the couple’s relationship without legal recognition.
  • Cohabitation Agreement: A legal contract outlining living arrangements, finances, and property ownership for cohabitating couples.
  • Moving to a Permissive State or Country: Couples could relocate to an area where cousin marriage is legal.

FAQs

  • Can I marry my second cousin in Oregon? Yes, marriage between second cousins is legal in Oregon. Second cousins share about 3.13% of their genes, lessening the risk of genetic complications.
  • What if I’m already married to my cousin from another state/country where it was legal? Oregon may or may not recognize the validity of your marriage. It’s essential to seek legal counsel to determine your marital status within the state.
  • How can I get genetic counseling if I’m considering marriage with my cousin? Genetic counselors can assess your individual risk factors and provide information to make informed decisions regarding family planning. You can find genetic counseling resources through your healthcare provider or organizations like the National Society of Genetic Counselors (https://www.nsgc.org/).
  • Where can I find more information on the laws about cousin marriage in Oregon? The official website of the Oregon State Legislature provides the complete text of Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 106.020 (https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws).

Sources

Important Note: This article provides legal information, not legal advice. If you’re contemplating marriage with your cousin and have concerns regarding legal or genetic implications, please consult with an attorney and a qualified genetic counselor in your area who can guide you based on your specific circumstances.

Conclusion

In Oregon, while marrying a first cousin is prohibited, there are variations in the permissibility of cousin marriage around the United States and the world. The decision to pursue such a union involves considering legal restrictions, potential health risks, societal opinions, and personal values. Seeking professional legal and genetic counsel can help individuals make informed decisions regarding their relationships.

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MBS Staff
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