First cousins can legally marry in Maine as long as they can prove they have attended genetic counselling.
There is no impediment for first cousins once removed, second cousins, or beyond.
Maine does not recognize marriages from outside the state that do not conform to its legislation.
This article reviews the important aspects of cousin marriage within the Pine Tree State.
What Do The Maine Marriage Laws Say About First Cousins?
The Maine marriage laws have a very lengthy list of prohibited relationships. They start with describing them from the male side, and then repeat this from the female side.
You won’t see any mention of a “first cousin”. But that’s because they spell everything out in tedious detail. I’ve highlighted the relevant section:
A man may not marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, brother’s daughter, sister’s daughter, father’s sister, mother’s sister,
the daughter of his father’s brother or sister or the daughter of his mother’s brother or sister.
A woman may not marry her father, grandfather, son, grandson, brother, brother’s son, sister’s son, father’s brother, mother’s brother,
the son of her father’s brother or sister or the son of her mother’s brother or sister.
A person may not marry that person’s parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, nephew, niece, aunt or uncle.Maine marriage laws
We’ll examine the exceptions in the next section.
But first, let’s clarify what they’ve left out here and what that means.
First cousins once removed can marry in Maine
The children of your first cousins are your first cousins once removed.
We notice that they haven’t mentioned “the son of the son of her father’s brother” or all the other possible scenarios of first cousin once removed.
So, we can take it that this relationship is permitted to marry.
It’s just as well. Those laws would have gotten very very long.
What about half cousins?
Half cousins are where the parents involved in the cousin relationship are half siblings.
Other states mention half or full blood relationships being in and out. But it’s not at all clear to us what Maine intends in this situation.
Do you need a counselling session? It’s worth checking with the county clerk’s office before you apply for a marriage license.
Exceptions To The Marriage Laws
Here is the clause that describes the exceptions.
man may marry the daughter of his father’s brother or sister or the daughter of his mother’s brother or sister, and a woman may marry the son of her father’s brother or sister or the son of her mother’s brother or sister as long as…the man or woman provides the physician’s certificate of genetic counseling.Maine marriage laws
In plain English, first cousins need to provide an extra document when they apply for a marriage license.
This is a certificate that confirms they attended genetic counselling sessions from a licensed physician.
Why have a genetic counselling session?
Other states have a moral objection to first cousin marriage, full stop.
Maine only has concerns about the couple being aware of potential health risks to children. I won’t get into the pros and cons of this argument.
A genetic counselling session for the purporse of marriage will cover topics such as recent statistics on the rate of birth defects when compared to cousins and non-cousin marriage.
I would also expect the genetic counsellor to probe into whether your families have multiple generations of cousin marriage in recent history. This can play its part in potential issues.
You should talk to your local doctor about arranging this type of counselling.
Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In Maine
Marriages between second cousins are allowed. Of course, more distant cousins are also permitted.
If you’re not sure what the difference is between the various relationships, the links below will give you diagrams and clear explanations.
Does The Maine Marriage Application Form Ask If You’re Related?
We reviewed the online application form for a marriage license from the Maine Department Of Health in 2022.
The form asks you whether you are first cousins.
I notice that they don’t use the language in the legislature. “Are you daughter of his father’s brother or sister?” Yep, “first cousin” is much easier to fit into the form!
Does Maine Recognize Out Of State Marriages?
You don’t want to attend (and pay for) a pesky genetic counselling session? Can you not just travel to a state which allows cousin marriage with no impediment?
Sure, you can. But you’ll have a problem if you intend to return and be resident in the Pine Tree State. This is what the laws say:
When residents of this State, with intent to evade this section and to return and reside here, go into another state or country to have their marriage solemnized there and afterwards return and reside here, that marriage is void in this State.Maine marriage laws
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 have a Catholic wedding.
What about other cousins?
Second cousins (and further out) don’t need to get special permission for a Catholic Church marriage.
We suggest that you mention to your priest that you are second cousins before the service. This means he won’t get uneasy if he hears mention of “cousins” from other people.
If you’re not sure about whether you are first or second cousins, check out our article that uses diagrams to explain what second cousins are.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick answers to common questions.
Does Maine allow relatives to marry?
Maine 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 Maine?
Maine 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 Maine?
Marriage between second cousins is legal in Maine.
The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Maine may have more current or accurate information.
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