It is illegal for first cousins to marry in Utah with some exceptions.
If the couple are both 65 or over, there is no impediment. If they are aged 55 to 64, they must prove that one of the couple is infertile.
There is no impediment for first cousins once removed, second cousins, or beyond.
Utah does not recognize first cousin marriages from outside the state that do not conform to its legislation.
This article reviews the important aspects of cousin marriage within the Beehive State.
What Do The Utah Marriage Laws Say About First Cousins?
The Utah marriage laws have a lengthy list of prohibited relationships. I’ve highlighted the relevant sections (we’ll explain the language clearly):
(a) marriages between parents and children; (b) marriages between ancestors and descendants of every degree;
(c) marriages between siblings of the half as well as the whole blood; (d) marriages between: (i) uncles and nieces or nephews; or(ii) aunts and nieces or nephews;
(e) marriages between first cousins [with exceptions]; or
(f) marriages between any individuals related to each other within and not including the fifth degree of consanguinity computed according to the rules of the civil law [with exceptions]Utah marriage laws
We’ll go into the exceptions in the next section.
But first, let’s clarify what the wording around “consanguinity” means.
What does “not including the fifth degree of consanguinity” mean?
Consanguinity means “related by blood”. Don’t get too caught up on the degrees. Let’s focus on what we really need to know.
First cousins are at four degrees (so that’s within five degrees and therefore forbidden).
Second cousins are at six degrees (outside five degrees, so therefore always permitted).
But there’s a degree in the middle i.e. five degrees. What fits here?
First cousins once removed are fifth degree. That means they are allowed.
What are first cousins once removed?
The children of your first cousins are your first cousins once removed. Here’s a diagram of one scenario of this relationship.
There are other scenarios – you can read more in our separate article on first cousins once removed.
Exceptions To The Marriage Laws
Here is the clause that describes the exceptions in Utah.
First cousins may marry under the following circumstances:
(a) both parties are 65 years of age or older; or
(b) if both parties are 55 years of age or older, upon a finding by the district court, located in the district in which either party resides, that either party is unable to reproduce.Utah marriage laws
In plain English, If you are both aged sixty-five or older, then you can get married with no impediment. Your proof of age will be enough when you apply for a marriage license.
If you are both fifty-five or older, then you are allowed to marry as long as you can convince a local court that one member of the couple is infertile.
One of the couple must be a Utah resident to use this loophole.
How do you convince a district court about infertility?
The laws don’t spell out how you’re supposed to convince a court.
We hope that women who are post-menopause can simply present a note of this fact to the judge from their local doctor.
Why have these exceptions?
Other states have a moral objection to first cousin marriage, full stop.
Utah is clearly basing its objections on the potential health risks to children. I won’t get into the pros and cons of this argument.
Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In Utah
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 Utah 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 whether first cousins can marry in Maine.
We reviewed the application form for a marriage license from Garfield County in 2022. There is no such question present.
I point this out because I can see how people could get married without being aware of the impediment. However, when you sign the form you are affirming that there is no impediment to your marriage.
Does Utah Recognize Out Of State Marriages?
Utah does not currently recognize first cousin marriages from outside the state that don’t conform to their laws.
One first cousin couple married in Colorado and returned to reside in Utah. They have been involved in a movement that is trying to garner support to get the state laws overturned.
Do Nearby States Allow First Cousins To Marry?
Utah is bordered by Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Only two of these states allow first cousins to marry. Check out these articles for more details:
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 Utah as a destination wedding spot?
Consider these other states as alternative options in the region!
Looking to relocate?
Some first cousins choose to relocate permanently to a state where their marriage will be 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 have a Catholic Church ceremony.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick answers to common questions.
Does Utah allow relatives to marry?
Utah 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 Utah?
Utah 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 Utah?
Marriage between second cousins is legal in Utah.
The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Utah may have more current or accurate information.
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