It is currently legal for first cousins to marry in New York.
The state laws prohibit closer relationships such as siblings.
Couples must apply for a marriage license. The Clerk may ask if the couple are related. However, a first cousin relationship is not an impediment.
This article looks at what you need to know about first cousin marriages in New York.
Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In New York
All types of cousins can get married in New York, including:
- first cousins (share common grandparents)
- half first cousins (first cousins through a half-sibling of your parent)
- first cousins once removed (children of your first cousins)
- second, third and fourth cousins (and further out)
It’s important to be sure that your partner is your cousin and not a half-sibling.
Half siblings aren’t allowed to marry in New York. If you’re unsure about what this relationship means, check out our article that looks in-depth at what half siblings are.
What You Should Know About First Cousin Marriages
New York requires that you apply for a marriage license.
You can download the form or get the process started online. But you will need to complete it in the presence of an official at a town or city clerk’s office.
Be sure that you don’t sign the form until your appointment.
Are you a resident?
You don’t have to be a resident in New York. But be aware that some other states in the U.S. don’t recognize your marriage if they prohibit first cousin unions.
You can also apply for your marriage license in any county, and it is valid across the state.
Does the New York application form ask if you’re related?
Some states have a section in their forms where you must state a relationship e.g. first cousin.
You can see an example in our article on first cousin marriage in Montana.
We reviewed the application form from the city of Olean in 2022. It does not ask for this information.
Be prepared for the possibility that the Clerk may ask you whether you are related. Don’t worry. Just explain that you are first cousins (or further out).
Who Can’t Get Married?
The New York marriage laws have a short section on three categories of relationships that are prohibited.:
1. An ancestor and a descendant;
2. A brother and sister of either the whole or the half blood;
3. An uncle and niece or an aunt and nephew.New York marriage laws
A “whole blood” brother or sister means that you share both parents. Half blood means that you only share one parent.
Why first cousins are legal
You’ve probably noticed that first cousins aren’t mentioned in prohibited relationships.
We also know that they aren’t ancestors or descendants of each other.
New York laws don’t say explicitly that first cousins can marry. They simply don’t mention the relationship in their restrictions.
That means you are good to go!
History Of Cousin Marriages In New York
New York first legislated a prohibited list of marriages back in 1830. That list did not include first cousins.
The state has never included restrictions on cousin marriages since then.
If you want a more general history that covers the rest of the United States, check out our article on first cousin marriage in America.
Do Cousins Travel To The State To Get Married?
New York is bordered by Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Only one of these states prohibits first cousin marriages. Pennsylvania is the odd one out.
You will sometimes hear griping from legislators in states that share borders with neighbors prohibiting cousin marriages.
They complain that hordes of out-of-state cousins descend upon their state to get legally married.
I don’t find any such concerns expressed in New York. That may be because residents in neighboring states have plenty of options.
If you are thinking of traveling to get married, be sure to check the laws of the state you are resident within. Some do not recognize first cousin marriages conducted elsewhere.
Roman Catholic Marriages In New York
If you want to celebrate your New York wedding in a Roman Catholic church, you will face a separate hurdle.
Historically, the Catholic Church hasn’t been keen on 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.
Here’s a link to our detailed explanation of first cousin marriages in a Catholic church.
What about second cousins?
Second cousins (and further out) don’t need to get special permission for a Catholic Church marriage.
If you’re not sure about whether you are first or second cousins, check out our article that explains how second cousins work. The diagrams should make things clear.
Cousins run into trouble at a Catholic New York wedding
Back in 2012, a Connecticut priest traveled to New York to give a reading at his cousin’s civil wedding ceremony (i.e. not a Church wedding).
The out-of-state Padre was hauled over the coals by his Archbishop when he returned home. Why? Well, it wasn’t because of the cousin relationship.
This was a same-sex marriage, which was legal in both states at that time. But the Church hierarchy is still out of sorts with such marriages.
NBC reported that many of the priest’s parishioners thought this was unfair. After all, helping out a cousin is a little different from marrying them!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick answers to common questions.
Does New York allow relatives to marry?
New York does not allow close relatives to marry.
More distant relatives such as first and second cousins are allowed to marry in the state.
Can you marry a sibling in New York?
New York 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 New York?
Marriage between second cousins is legal in New York.
Other cousin relationships, such as first and third cousins, are also allowed to marry in the state.
The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. The state 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.