It is currently illegal for first cousins to marry in Louisiana.
First cousins once removed and other more distant relationships are allowed.
The Louisiana courts have recognized at least one first-cousin marriage conducted outside their jurisdiction.
This article looks in depth at aspects of cousin marriage within the Pelican State.
What Do The Louisiana Marriage Laws Say About First Cousins?
Some states have long lists of the type of relationships that are prohibited from marrying.
The Louisiana laws are much shorter and simpler. They start with prohibiting “ascendants and descendants”. This means your direct line e.g. your parents and children.
The next section prohibits the category of people that we are interested in:
Collaterals within the fourth degree, whether of the whole or of the half blood.Louisiana marriage laws
First cousins are collaterals within the fourth degree
The laws use fairly archaic terms to describe what they mean. What does “collaterals within the fourth degree” mean?
First cousins are collaterals of the fourth degree. So, they are at the edge of the prohibition and are not allowed to marry.
If you want to understand exactly how the degrees are calculated, we have an explanation and diagram in our general article on first cousins.
Check out the section on how many degrees are first cousins.
Are there any exceptions to the laws?
Some other states generally don’t allow first cousin marriage but have some allowances based on age or other criteria.
In contrast, Louisiana appears to have a blanket ban within the state. There are no special exceptions.
When was the ban introduced?
At one stage in the history of Louisiana, there was no explicit prohibition on first cousin marriage. The focus was on more immediate family.
Half siblings were added to the prohibited list in the late 19th century
Legislation was introduced in 1902 to prevent first cousins from marrying.
Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married
Other types of cousins can get married in Louisiana.
For example, marriages between first cousins once removed are permitted. The children of your first cousins are your first cousins once removed.
This relationship is at five degrees, which is one beyond the limit specified in the laws.
If you want a full explanation of the calculations, you’ll find a diagram in this article on how many degrees are first cousins once removed.
As we move further out the relationship chart, we know that second, third, and fourth cousins are also allowed marry in the state.
If you’re not sure what the different types of relationships mean, check out the links below to articles.
Does The Marriage Application Form Ask If You’re Related?
Some U.S. states have a section in their marriage application forms where the couple must state whether they have a blood relationship.
You can see an example in our article on first cousin marriage in New Jersey.
We reviewed the online form for a Louisiana marriage license in 2022. There is no such question present.
Does Louisiana Recognize First Cousin Marriages From Other States?
Other American states have explicitly stated in their laws that they recognize cousin marriages conducted in states where they are legal.
The situation in Louisiana seems unclear.
In 2008, a Louisiana court of appeal recognized the marriage of first cousins who had married in Iran. This, of course, is another country as opposed to another state within the U.S.
The original court decision refused to recognize the laws of Iran. It took an appeal to overturn this decision and recognize the marriage.
This linked article goes into more detail about the Ghassemi vs Ghassemi decision.
Do Nearby States Allow First Cousins To Marry?
Louisiana is bordered by Arkansas, Texas, and Mississippi. None of these states allow first cousins to marry.
The nearest state where it’s legal is probably further north to the Volunteer State. Check out our artice on first cousins marrying in Tennessee.
Looking for a destination wedding spot?
Do you live in a state or country where first cousin marriage is legal and you simply wanted to visit Louisiana as a destination wedding spot?
Consider Tennessee as an alternative option in the region!
Looking to relocate?
Some first cousins choose to relocate permanently to a state where their marriage will be recognized as legal.
Review your options and future plans carefully. You may wish to sit down with an attorney to consider all the implications.
Some states in the U.S. will not recognize legal marriages from other states.
Roman Catholic Marriages
Even if close cousins move to another state that allows their civil marriage, they will face separate hurdles if they want a wedding in a Roman Catholic church.
Historically, the Catholic Church hasn’t encouraged first cousin marriages. However, the church laws have been relaxed somewhat in recent years.
There is a process that first cousins need to go through with the hierarchy in order to get permission to marry in a church ceremony. This is known as a dispensation.
You can read a more detailed explanation here on how first cousins can marry in the Catholic Church.
What about other cousins?
Both the Catholic Church and the Lousiana laws use degrees of relationship to calculate what’s allowed. This points to the early Spanish influence on 19th century Louisiana.
Second cousins (and further out) don’t need to get special permission for a Catholic Church marriage. This is because they are beyond the fourth degree of relationship.
If you’re not sure about whether you are first or second cousins, check out our article that explains the second cousin relationship. It has diagrams that make it clear.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick answers to common questions.
Does Louisiana allow relatives to marry?
Louisiana does not allow close relatives to marry.
More distant relatives such as second cousins are allowed to marry in the state.
Can you marry a sibling in Louisiana?
Louisiana does not allow siblings to marry. Half-siblings are also not allowed to marry in the state.
Is it legal to marry your second cousin in Louisiana?
Marriage between second cousins is legal in Louisiana.
The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Louisiana may have more current or accurate information.
We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or the information linked to on other sites. Please check official sources.