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

Cousin marriage, once a common practice in many parts of the world, has experienced changing legal and social attitudes over time. In the United States, the legality of cousin marriage varies significantly between states. This article will examine the specific laws regarding cousin marriage in the state of Virginia, delve into the historical context, and discuss some of the arguments for and against such unions.

Virginia’s Law on Cousin Marriage

Virginia stands among the states in the U.S. that have no restrictions on marriage between first cousins. This means that first cousins who are legally of age and meet all other marriage requirements are free to wed within the state.

Historical Context of Cousin Marriage

  • Global and historical prevalence Throughout history and across various cultures, cousin marriage has been a relatively common practice. Historically, it was seen in many societies around the world, including Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
  • Reasons for cousin marriage in the past Several factors contributed to the historical prevalence of cousin marriage:
    • Preserving family wealth and property: Marrying within the family helped keep property and assets consolidated.
    • Strengthening alliances: Cousin marriages could build political and social ties between families.
    • Maintaining cultural traditions: Some cultures viewed marrying within extended families as a way to preserve traditions and family bonds.

Arguments For and Against Cousin Marriage

  • Arguments in favor
    • Personal liberty: Proponents may argue that adults should have the freedom to marry whomever they choose.
    • Upholding cultural traditions: Some individuals from cultures where cousin marriage is accepted may view it as a fundamental part of their heritage.
  • Arguments against
    • Increased genetic risks: Offspring of closely related couples face a higher risk of genetic disorders.
    • Social stigma: Cousin marriage may be met with disapproval or stigma in some communities.
    • Ethical concerns: Some view the practice as morally problematic due to the close familial ties.

Genetic Risks and Considerations

Scientific research indicates that children born to first cousins face an increased risk of inheriting recessive genetic disorders. While the overall risk remains relatively low, it is higher than that of children born to unrelated parents. The elevated risk stems from the greater likelihood that close relatives share harmful recessive genes.

Couples considering a cousin marriage may wish to seek genetic counseling to better understand the potential risks and make informed decisions.

The Current Social Landscape

In the United States, cousin marriage is becoming less common, as societal views shift and concerns about genetic risks increase. However, it remains legal in many states, including Virginia. There remain pockets of populations where the practice is more widely accepted for cultural or historical reasons.

Alternatives to Cousin Marriage

For individuals concerned about the potential genetic risks or social implications of cousin marriage, various alternatives exist:

  • Marrying an unrelated partner: This generally carries the lowest risk of genetic disorders
  • Adoption: Building a family through adoption provides a loving home for a child in need.
  • Remaining single: Choosing not to marry and focusing on other aspects of life is a perfectly valid option.


The legality of cousin marriage in Virginia underscores the complexities of this issue. While Virginia law permits such unions, there are crucial ethical, genetic, and social factors to consider. It is essential for individuals contemplating a cousin marriage to weigh these elements carefully and make decisions with full awareness of the potential risks and implications.

Resources for Further Information

Several organizations and resources provide additional information and support for those interested in learning more about cousin marriage:

  • National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC): The NSGC ( offers resources and can help individuals locate genetic counselors for personalized risk assessments and counseling.
  • Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM): OMIM ( is a comprehensive database of human genes and genetic disorders that can provide detailed information on specific genetic diseases and their inheritance patterns.
  • Research Studies: Various research publications examine cousin marriage and its effects on offspring. A search through reputable medical and genetic journals can provide detailed scientific data.

Statistics on Cousin Marriage

While reliable statistics about the frequency of cousin marriage in Virginia are challenging to gather, some figures offer a general perspective:

  • Global Perspective: It’s estimated that globally, around 10% of marriages are between cousins, with higher rates in regions such as the Middle East and South Asia.
  • The United States: Approximately 0.2% of all marriages in the United States are estimated to be between first cousins. However, this number varies considerably between states and cultural groups.

Areas for Further Exploration

The topic of cousin marriage raises various questions and potential areas for further investigation:

  • Changing cultural attitudes: How are shifting social values impacting the views and prevalence of cousin marriages in Virginia and the wider U.S.?
  • Legal implications: Could potential future legal restrictions or medical guidelines on cousin marriage be considered? What debates might these proposals generate?
  • Personal stories: How do couples navigate the decision to enter a cousin marriage? What are their experiences and perspectives?

Important Note: This article aims to provide neutral and informative insights into the complexities of cousin marriage. Its purpose is not to judge or advocate for a particular position. Ultimately, the decision of whether to enter a cousin marriage is a deeply personal one, and individuals should always consider all aspects carefully before making this life-altering choice.


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MBS Staff
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One comment

  1. Me and my sister are from first cousins I have several different kinds of seizures and other health problems but this don’t bring us down my sister also was born with a blood problem but survived we have out lived most of our family that would be here Today ❤ but we’re to say that our family roots go really deep with us and love is the most thing that is in our hearts when family is need and our minds are in average state of mind compared to alot of out on the streets today that can’t handle themselves getting pissed over a simple thing that makes them ticked off in a public setting so this I hope that you understand about the real meaning of first cousins now us as sisters we are caring sisters in no matter what the situation is and first we do not get mad and a uproar we don’t lash out we talk first to the other person about their situation ❤ hope this helps out about us as sister ..years ago we were not to be living as of this day .. I had so many seizures in one day that I survived them with the help of my friends daughters husband some of these places in our home town they needed the hell I give them to get their asses on their feet to help not just my ass but others that was in need here in martinsville and Henry County virginia I’m glad theyr gone today thanks for letting me say my peace on cousins but I stand strong with me and my sister and our dad has passed but mour mother is still living ❤

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