General Question

awaytoolong's avatar

When did it become illegal to marry cousins in the United States, and why?

Asked by awaytoolong (36points) February 8th, 2007
I live in a West African, predominantly Muslim country where I was surprised to learn it is very common for cousins (even first cousins) to marry. In fact, the last 4 marriages I attended were cousin marriages. This made me wonder where does the prohibition to marry cousins, and other family members for that matter, come from in the US? Is it religiously based (If so, where?)? Or culturally based originating somewhere in Western Europe or elsewhere?
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11 Answers

sjg102379's avatar
There are a number of states in the U.S. that do allow cousin marriage.
sjg102379's avatar
Adult consensual incest is often considered taboo in the U.S. because of concerns about birth defects, but has not traditionally been taboo in Judeo-Christian or European cultures until the midway point of the 20th century. (My great-grandparents were first cousins, as many people from small European communities were).
occ's avatar
The prohibition of cousin marriage is not a judeo-christian invention. there are characters in the bible who marry cousins. If I recall correctly, Abraham sends his servant back to the land his family came from in order to find a bride from within his own family for Isaac.
awaytoolong's avatar
Ok, thanks! Do children that come from cousin marriages really have a higher likelihood of genetic problems or has modern genetics disproven that? Also, if genetic problems are more likely to occur with cousin marriages, which types of problems are most likely to arise?
sjg102379's avatar says: Children of non-related couples have a 2-3% risk of birth defects, as opposed to first cousins having a 4-6% risk. The National Society of Genetic Counselors estimated the increased risk for first cousins is between 1.7 to 2.8 percent, or about the same a any woman over 40 years of age.
sjg102379's avatar
The type of problems would depend on your racial/ethnic background, as different groups have different hereditary genetic diseases. (i.e Jews=Tay Sachs, African-Americans=sickle cell, etc)
sjg102379's avatar
Also, Rudy Guliani was married to his 2nd cousin. If he can do it, anyone can!
Nullo's avatar

@occ As I recall, cousin-marriage was banned under the Mosaic Law. Abraham pre-dates Mosaic Law by a good 500 years or so.

anartist's avatar

After FDR and Eleanor married?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Holy moly, IMO it is as many other major laws rooted in religion; or Judea/Christian rules anyhow. The genetic factor has about as much actual teeth as if you masturbated you’d get hair in your palms, go blind, get hobbit feet, go dumb, etc. It is basically an argument that is all hat and no cattle. Back in the day even though many were not die hard Christians, the US had more of a Christian slant, even if they were more C&E Christians. That is why there was a big flap over JFK being catholic. By having science sign on to it they can stop secular people who might not have gave a hoot at what the church say to fall in line. There were laws on the books that made certain sexual acts criminal. About the only one still standing between consenting adults is trading sex for cash, or should I say directly across to the person getting their jollies off and not for the entertainment of others.

Moegitto's avatar

Not every state allows it, but it does exist (looking at you Georgia). Most states have in their legislation something about the blood thinning. Blood thinning as in how your 1st cousin can almost be considered your brother/sister while your 8th cousin has little to no blood resemblance. Then you have those “cousin removed” cases where people are related by law, and have no DNA/blood relation at all. Basically a step-cousin isn’t technically related to you. I don’t know how people view those types of relationships, but being from up north, it’s a monsterfied act.

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