Criminal Justice

Not Tonight, Honey. It's a Felony.


The United States is the only Western country in which marriage between first cousins is widely prohibited. Twenty-five states still ban such unions, even though the genetic justification for such laws has been thoroughly discredited. (While married cousins are somewhat more likely to produce children with birth defects, the hazard is small, comparable to the risk faced by women who have children in their 40s.) "The laws against cousin marriage are archaic, outdated and counterproductive," says Kansas State University anthropologist Martin Ottenheimer, author of Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage. Imagine my surprise, then, at discovering that Texas, where I live, not only prohibits cousin marriage but adopted the ban only five years ago. Why? Apparently because the legislators who approved the change were not paying attention. This is how describes the circumstances:

Representative Harvey Hilderbran introduced an amendment that was tacked on a bill that strengthened child protection laws in the state of Texas. This was not a stand-alone bill, nor would a stand-alone bill ever be passed on this day and time.

I spoke with a spokesperson for Representative Hilderbran. I was informed that the bill was aimed at folks with plural marriages (Bigamists). They simply borrowed language from Utah, of all places.

Worse, Texas also copied Utah by criminalizing sex between cousins, which is now included in the definition of "prohibited sexual conduct," a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. And if you're thinking, "It may be on the books, but surely they never prosecute anyone for that," you're wrong:

Two first cousins were indicted this week under state law after a police investigation discovered the two had sex.

Ruben Perez and Elvira Martinez were named in two separate indictments, each on two counts of prohibited sexual conduct.

The charge against Perez was enhanced from a third degree to a second degree felony [which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison] because he had a previous felony conviction on Aug. 13, 1992, on a charge of possession of a controlled substance, cocaine.

Perez was placed on community supervision after that conviction but the probation was revoked on Feb. 23, 1993.

Martinez's offense was listed as a third degree felony. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

The cousins were accused by BPD investigators of having sex with each other even though they knew they were first cousins.

Based on the estimate that 0.1 percent of American marriages (vs. 20 percent of marriages worldwide) involve first cousins, this law has transformed thousands of Texans into felons for the crime of having sex with their spouses. While some states that prohibit cousin marriage nevertheless recognize such unions when they are performed elsewhere, it's hard to see how Texas can, since it would then be condoning an ongoing felony.

Wait, there's more. Violation of the ban on "prohibited sexual conduct" triggers lifetime registration as a sex offender, putting married, sexually active cousins in the same category as rapists and child molesters.

More on cousin marriage here.

NEXT: Is the AARP Willing to Bargain on Social Security?

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  1. Disgusting as though such actions (or even the thought of them) may be, the government has no business criminalizing consensual sexual relations among adult members of the same family, regardless of the relationship.

    1. Disgusting as though such actions (or even the thought of them) may be
      Maybe with YOUR cousin!

      1. It’s not the fact that your cousin in involved that worries us…it’s you, dude.

    2. The love that dare not speak it’s same last name.

  2. Worse, Texas also copied Utah by criminalizing sex between cousins, which is now included in the definition of “prohibited sexual conduct,” a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

    Wait until the gay cousins lobby hears about this!

    1. Thanks, John/Suki, for once again adding absolutely nothing of substance or worth to a Reason comment thread.

      1. But at least it was witty and funny, right? Right?!?

        1. This is just like the days of joe & TofuSushi. Can you hold your children with nuclear arms?

  3. Who cares, it’s gross.

    1. I care, because it enables me to point out that Republicans are racist.

  4. Gotta love my great state of Texas. I don’t see why cousin love is so reviled. Anybody doing a genealogical investigation on their family can find out they are related to someone else thanks to all of the cross country breeding that has happened over the last 2000 years.

    On a side note:

    Jacob, did you know that they amended the State Constitution in 2005 to ban gay marriage? I didn’t hear a darn thing about it till like two years ago.

    1. I remember voting on it in college. It won by a large margin.

    2. I forgot to vote.

  5. “Based on the estimate that 1 percent of American marriages involve first cousins…”

    Surely the percent is much higher in my home state, pea-pickin’, kissin’ cousin’ Tennessee!

    1. Is that the state where the definition of a virgin is any girl who can run faster than her male relatives?

      1. From the website it looks like he got the number wrong. Should be .1%, or 1/1000.

    2. Yeckh! My cousins are even uglier than I am.

  6. There’s seriously a website called Wow.

    Anyway, I’m with Andrew S. Seems like some weird shit to me, but I don’t see why the government should care.

    1. “We match couples on 25 different genetic markers…”

      1. They’ll be scratching their heads at the amount of traffic they get today.

        1. Hell, maybe some unrelated folks might get some ass over there.

      2. This is so you don’t wind up with any blue people.

    2. It’s For The Children?, fuckface.

      And since Mr. Sullum brought it up, we need to work on that giving birth after 40 thing.

  7. I have no less than four smoking hot cousins.

    1. Pix plz thx

    2. That must have been torturous when you were a teenager, yes?

      1. I suppose it depends on whether he ever got to bang any of them.

    3. I’ve only got three, but they’re all Asian, so I win.

  8. Manhattan, Ks of all the places to discover cuzzin fuckin. They are all inbred.
    Oh, and no teeth, either

  9. I tell you, I won’t live in a town that robs men of the right to marry their cousins!

    1. Well, then, we’ll form our own town. Who will come and live a life devoted to chastity, abstinence, and a flavorless mush I call rootmarm?

      1. I feel embiggened

        1. Well that was a cromulent comment…

  10. It was worth reading just to see “”

    Gold, Jerry. Gold!

    In all seriousness, though, these people have a stigma attached to them that is absurd. Less than 150 years ago, cousin marriage was as commonplace in America as interfaith marriage. Even the movie Gone With The Wind refers to it as nothing out of the ordinary. Suellen O’Hara “I heard Ashley Wilkes is going to marry his cousin, Melanie Hamilton.” Careen O’Hara “I’m not surprised. The Wilkeses always marry their cousins.”

    1. Seems to me that that excerpt implies that there was a stigma, even if people still did it.

      Also, there is a difference between first and second cousins.

      North Carolina allows first cousin marriages, but prohibits double first cousin marriages, where you’re first cousins on both sides.

      Example: Imagine that two brothers married two sisters. Their kids would be double first cousins.

  11. Wouldn’t this be an ex post facto law at least with respect to already married couples?

    1. It’s not criminalizing marriages that took place before the law went into effect; it criminalizes the sexual activity that occurs in those marriages after the law was passed.

      1. So, we can call this the coitus interruptus law?

        1. Only if you pulled out at the moment of the vote.

  12. The pending case cited is the perfect opportunity for jury nullification. Too bad most jurors think they hav eto follow the law.

    1. Who the fuck is eto?

      1. An electronic to.

        Like how e-mail is electronic mail.

      2. Say my name three times and I appear!

      3. The O.J. judge.

  13. And if you’re thinking, “It may be on the books, but surely they never prosecute anyone for that,”

    I’m not that stupid. If it’s on the books, some asshole DA will use it. Covicting people, not justice, is their job.

    Wait, there’s more. Violation of the ban on “prohibited sexual conduct” triggers lifetime registration as a sex offender, putting married, sexually active cousins in the same category as rapists and child molesters.

    I knew that was coming.

    1. It’s as if Ron Popeil started selling shit during the time of the puritans.

      “Ooohhh, lifelong sex offender registry! Now that’s worth 19.95!”

  14. Brandine: Dang, Cletus, why’d you have to park by my parents?

    Cletus: Now, honey, they’s my parents, too.

  15. If it’s good enough for Einstein……

  16. “The laws against cousin marriage are archaic, outdated and counterproductive,” says Kansas State University anthropologist Martin Ottenheimer, author of Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage.

    He must be very popular in Shelbyville…

    1. Now wait just a minute… We’re twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville! Just tell us your idea and we’ll vote for it!

  17. you know what else cousins-couples do?

    escape from prison and kill campers in New Mexico

    “Investigators say Welch, who is both McCluskey’s cousin and his fiancee”…..izona.html

    1. Killing campers is just what we do in New Mexico, whether a cousin couple or not. Nothing special there.

      1. Mr. Vorhees, I presume?

  18. You know who’s big on first cousin marriage? Shi’ites.

    1. mutual mosquerbation, too

      1. If cousins mosquerbate in front of each other, is THAT illegal too?

  19. Should have moved to Shelbyville.

  20. On 2 May 1927, in an 8-1 decision, the Court accepted that she, her mother and her daughter were “feeble-minded” and “promiscuous,”[4] and that it was in the state’s interest to have her sterilized. The ruling legitimized Virginia’s sterilization procedures until they were repealed in 1974.

    The ruling was written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. In support of his argument that the interest of the states in a “pure” gene pool outweighed the interest of individuals in their bodily integrity, he argued:

    ” We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. ”

    Holmes concluded his argument by declaring that “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”.[5] The sole dissenter in the court, Justice Pierce Butler, declined to write a minority opinion.

    1. “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”.

      When it comes to the US Presidency, one generation is sufficient.

    2. What most people don’t know is the whole backstory behind Buck v. Bell. The case was purposely ginned up, like so many civil-rights based cases are, to challenge specific statutes perceived as unconstitutional.

      She apparently was a pretty average girl, of average, or perhaps slightly sub-average intelligence, but she was not an imbecile or moron (as those words were used at the time).

      As with so many hysterical events, most people know only what Wikipedia says about them. Buck v. Bell is famous for Holmes’ “three generations of imbeciles are enough” quote, but the whole thing takes on a very different hue when you know more about the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. Strong overtones of eugenics.

      But I don’t see what it has to do with kissing cousins.

      1. Right, because wikipedia says nothing about eugenics on the page for Buck v. Bell.

  21. Devil’s Advocate Reporting for Duty!

    I think it’s exactly this kind of crap along the other “libertarian stances” (such as – “I’m pissed because my ferret can’t smoke dope with me”) that keeps libertarians from getting elected or even taken seriously. Who gives a shit if you can’t marry your cousin?

    1. kid does.

      1. Uncle dad? Meh, it’s got a ring to it.

        1. Many, many years ago when I was just twenty-three,
          I was married to a widow, she was pretty as could be.
          This widow had a grown-up daughter who had hair of red
          And my father fell in Love with her. Soon they too were wed.

          This made my dad my son-in-law–changed my very life!
          My daughter was my mother because she was my father’s wife!
          To complicate the matter even though it brought me joy,
          I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy.

          My little baby he then became a brother-in-law to Dad.
          Well, that made him my uncle–made me very sad!
          Because if he was my uncle then he also was a brother
          To the widow’s grown-up daughter, who, of course, was my stepmother.


          My father’s wife then had a son who kept them on the run.
          And, of course, he became my grandchild because he was my daughter’s son.
          My wife is now my mother’s mother and this makes me blue
          Because although she is my wife, she’s my grandmother too!


          Now if my wife is my grandmother, well, then I am her grandchild,
          And every time that I think about this, it nearly drives me wild!
          Because now I have become the strangest case that you ever saw
          As husband of my grandmother, I?m? my own grandpa!


          I’m my own grandpa! I’m my own grandpa!
          It sounds funny, I know, but it really is so!
          Oh, I’m my own grandpa!

          1. On being your own Grandpa, Philip J. Fry approves.

      2. I said

        Who gives a shit if you can’t marry your cousin?


        Who gives a shit if you want to marry your cousin.

        1. Precisely: I’d rather not be a mamzer, thank you very much.

          1. Does El Biblio forbid marriage between cousins?

            What about consenting donkeys?

            1. So long as you don’t make an ass of yourself. Nyuk-nyuk.

    2. People who want to marry their cousin presumably? The rights of the majority rarely need to be defended, the rights of the minority always.

      1. In general, I think this is a good point. However, until medicine isn’t “free” and we don’t have to pay for fucknut hicks having genetically-challenged kids with their cousins I oppose the idea.

        Yes, I said fucknut hicks. I see some people pointing to ancient times when it was cool to marry your cousin, but newfangled concepts such as genetics have shown that in general it’s not a good idea.

        1. Erm… actually, those newfangled genetics say that there’s no significant difference in genetic abnormalities in children of first cousins versus those in the general populace.

          1. Awesome.

            For example because the entire Amish population is descended from only a few hundred 18th century German-Swiss settlers, the average coefficient of inbreeding between two random Amish is higher than between two non-Amish second cousins.[181] First-cousin marriage is taboo among Amish but they still suffer from several rare genetic disorders. In Ohio’s Geagua County, Amish make up only about 10 percent of the population but represent half the special needs cases. In one debilitating seizure disorder the worldwide total of 12 cases is exclusively Amish.[182] Similar disorders have been found in the highly polygynous FLDS, who do allow first-cousin marriage and of whom 75 to 80 percent are related to two 1930s founders.[183][184]


            1. I don’t see how centuries of inbreeding is really comparable to an occasional marriage of cousins in families that probably aren’t made exclusively of inbreds.

              1. Because they’d have to change the law to be something like “you can marry your cousin, but your children can’t for N generations” or something like that to prevent this exact case.

                1. Right – they’d have to change the law to address a problem that wouldn’t exist.

                2. Do you realize that Amish and FLDS don’t marry out because of their religion and odd customs? ie, that they choose always to marry in instead of just “when nature takes its course”.

        2. RTFA: While married cousins are somewhat more likely to produce children with birth defects, the hazard is small, comparable to the risk faced by women who have children in their 40s.)

          I actually have a greater chance of passing on a birth defect with a non-cousin coupling that most cousins do.

          1. Not true – if you’re over 40 things get ugly.

            Chances of having a child with Down syndrome increase with the mother’s age: a woman has a 1 in 350 chance of conceiving a child with Down syndrome at age 35, a 1 in 110 chance at age 40, and a 1 in 30 chance at age 45.


            A tenfold increase in 10 years.

            1. My wife is currently preggo, and over 40, and we’re willing to roll those dice because we are down with the NFP.

              1. And that’s your choice. Assuming you have health insurance.

        3. So you’d sterilize all women over 40. I think I see where this is headed, Justice Holmes.

        4. Will you please follow the links? Breeding with your first cousin is still a very low risk, comparable to the risk of giving birth after 40. (Please, no more Palin jokes)

          1. Will you please read up on this? It’s not “low risk”. You are 10x more likely to have a child with down syndrome at 45 than you are at 35.

            1. So are you agitating to make sex for women over 40 years old, but who have not yet reached menopause, illegal?

            2. Smoking cigarettes is a risk. Driving a car is a risk. Getting into the shower is a risk. Oh, please help me 10pthy, I can’t ascertain these things for myself and decide what I should do!! Send me you phone number so I can have your exalted wisdom whenever this happens!

              1. Risk is fine. Me paying for it with tax $ is not. If people want me to pay for long-term care for someone who is born with genetic defects as a result of something they knew was dangerous then they did it well, then that’s another story.

                1. You’re avoiding the question.

                  Based on your arguments that you’ve made in this comments thread, should it be illegal for women who (1) are over the age of 40, and (2) have not yet reached menopause to have sex? Or to marry? If not, why the inconsistency?

                  1. I don’t give a fuck what people want to do. If you want to have kids at 40 go for it. If you want to marry your cousin and have kids go for it (I’m still going to think you’re a fuck nut).

                    I just don’t want to pay for “the results” when you know you’re engaging in risky behavior. By pay for it I mean long-term care for a child you knew fully well had a greater chance of being handicapped. If the gov’t didn’t subsidize this behavior, I think we’d see less of it.

              2. “Smoking cigarettes is a risk.” No. It’s actually just stupid. But people do it anyway and in the end we all get to pay for it.

            3. And yet, one in 30 is less kids than already have some physical or mental handicap, however you control for genetics or maternal age.

              The great problem with eugenics advocates such as yourself, is that the guy with the perfect genome doesn’t exist and has never existed, and would probably be impossible to make except by writing their DNA letter by letter.

        5. God, I hate these “but we have to pay for it” arguments. Then the problem you should be addressing is the fact that you have to pay for other people’s medical care. Don’t assume responsibility for others just so that you can control them; let people be responsible for themselves.

          1. We are in agreement.

        6. It’s not just fucknut hicks. It is, among others, Charles Darwin.

    3. Would you be upset if it was illegal for women to have sex between 40-when there eggs run out? There is no more justification for this law than for that one.

      And why the fuck can’t my ferret smoke dope with me?

      1. Based on the women I’ve been out with lately, they are self-legislating (and vehemently self-enforcing) this kind of stuff…much to my chagrin, I might add.

        1. They just don’t want to sleep with you.

      2. Because you only smoke schwag.

        1. That, and the ferret is probably illegal anyway. PAPERS, PLEASE!

      3. between 40-when there eggs run out

        I just had a visual of an egg stampede down the fallopian tubes, Pamplona style…

        1. The running of the eggs.

      4. Don’t get me wrong. I am fully for fading with my ferret.

      1. It does qualify!

  22. Three felonies a day, bitches.

  23. “You will marry a tall, dark couple.”

  24. “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”.

    Obviously an outdated concept with our government. We’re on at least our 4th or 5th in a row.

  25. I spoke with a spokesperson for Representative Hilderbran. I was informed that the bill was aimed at folks with plural marriages (Bigamists). They simply borrowed language from Utah, of all places.

    Ooh boy! That copy/paste thingee is such a time saver.

    Not reading legislation before voting on it is quite common. Not reading it while writing it is a new one.

    1. They had to pass it to find out what was in it.

    2. Not only do they not read the bills but they don’t even show up for their votes:

      The Texas legislature is a bunch of clowns but at least they only meet for 6 months out of every 2 years.

      1. Yep. Pay them almost nothing, and make it unconstitutional for them to meet in even numbered years. They can only do so much harm. I wonder if we could get a federal amendment…

        1. And hope they use the opportunity to take a road trip to Oklahoma. Tellin them there’ll be free hookers and booze will probably help.

      2. The Texas Capitol was “built for giants and inhabited by pygmies.” ?Bob Eckhardt

  26. possibly relevant:
    Obama’s interactive family tree

  27. From the link to the Texas penal code, the definition of “deviate” sexual conduct is particularly fun:

    “Deviate sexual intercourse” means any contact between the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.

    So, presumably, analingus is A-OK. I don’t know if this will be good news or bad for Episiarch’s cousins.

    1. Thanks for coming. You know the Rimmers from Texas…

    2. What if it was done with no intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of anyone? Just a little mouth-genital or genital-stinkhole contact – y’know, not for gratification or anything. Just because we were bored; got nothing else to do; never intended anyone to get “aroused” or “gratified” or nothin’.

  28. Now you tell me!

    We just put down a deposit for the family reunion at a hotel in Austin. I guess it’ll be a lot of cold showers after the “spin the bottle” game.

  29. Why does the site look so much like the WV license plate? Intentional?…..wv2005.jpg

  30. Did I just stroke out, or is Hit and Run starting to merge with an “Arrested Development” subplot?

  31. Ha ha! I have smoking hot second cousins! Home fucking free!

    …oh, wait, I’m married. Damn.

  32. Yeah, well, I’ve never had any cousins worth a second look, let alone trying to get to third base with them.

  33. How would you like to be related to these kissing cousins:…..0451402103

    Fortunately, I’m not though for years me late grandmum thought she was because she was born with the last name Sharp and the name of one of her uncles and his wife matched up with that of Susie’s grandparents.

    My cousin (cute by the way) did a genealogical background check, and found the mix up. She also uncovered because of a marriage of Frank James we are related to Jesse James which is wayyy cooler than those two fuckers.

  34. If the evidence in Muslim countries is any indication, “discredited” isn’t exactly what I’d call a ban on first cousin marriage. Something like 50+% of marriages there are consanguinous, and the rate of birth defects is monstrous.

  35. Didn’t that well-known southern redneck FDR marry a cousin?

  36. Anyone know what the BPD was really investigating when they came on this gem? Darn, now we have to wait until at least Sat. night for Jacob to follow up!

  37. “The laws against cousin marriage are archaic, outdated and counterproductive,”

    I think it’s important to note that cousin marriage bans are the new, more ‘modern’ law, departing from the old norm in Western society that first-cousin marriages were legal.

    According an article published on the National Institutes of Health website, first-cousin marriages were legal in every state until Kansas banned them in 1858. Most states that currently ban them passed their laws by the 1920s. Texas is unusual in that it passed such law in 2005.

    1. The term “Quaker cousins” comes from the fact that from the 17th through the early 19th century Quakers who married outside the faith got “read out of the meeting” (essentially the same thing as excommunication). Even in those early days when Quakerism was a significant religion it was hard to find adherents outside of one’s own family. In order to contract a marriage that would meet the approval of the Elders and Overseers (scroll down to the fifth paragraph) one often had to marry a first cousin.

      Mind you, in the 17th century there were a host of things that could get you “read out of the meeting”. My ancestor John Bartram was read out of the Darby, PA meeting on account of the verse

      “It is God alone – Almighty Lord
      The Holy One By Me Ador’d”

      inscribed over a window of his house, which suggested a tendency to Unitarianism.

      His sons Isaac and Moses were likewise “read out of the meeting” for supporting the American Revolutionary cause as “Free Quakers”, thus running afoul of the “Peace Testimony”.

      GreatX7-grandpa John continued to attend the Darby meeting sitting in the family’s pew until he died in 1777. In 1993, the one-hundredth anniversary of the formation of the John Bartram Society the Darby, PA meeting of the Society of Friends reinstated John Bartram to full fellowship in the meeting to a collective “meh! big fucking deal” from his descendants.

      Today, of course, the Quakers have become so broad-minded that you could likely marry your Border Collie and not get “read out of the meeting”. 🙂

      1. Correction:

        In the second paragraph, I meant to say “in the 18th century” ,rather than “in the 17th century”.

    2. Not really. Until the Protestant Reformation, the norm in the West was to forbid marriages between cousins up to the fourth degree of consanguinity (i.e., though third cousins) was forbidden by canon law, though the impediment of consanguinity could (and frequently was) one from which you could be dispensed). With the Reformation, Prots held that, under the principle of sola scriptura, cousin marriages shouldn’t be prohibited, because they weren’t prohibited in the Bible.

  38. I can still marry and fuck my lesbian fifth counsin in Texas, bitches!

  39. Thanks for finding this, Jacob. The Perez-Martinez case is the first prosecution of its kind that I have heard of. It needs more attention.

    I am the anonymous writer of most of the Wikipedia article on cousin marriage. (I see l0phty quoted it already to support their bigoted opinions. I guess that tells me I am doing a reasonable job of being evenhanded.)

    Personally I am not sure that cousin marriage will ever be well addressed as a discriminatory issue in the United States. Some of the reasons for this I think were skillfully laid out in the following piece on 3 Quarks Daily:…..riage.html

    I have resigned myself to the fact that someone like me who is in a relationship with their first cousin will face disgust in the United States for the forseeable future. My solace for this is the hope that one day, when I finish graduate school, I will be more successful than many of the scorners and scoffers. We are lucky enough to live in an economic system where upward mobility is possible even for people who go against the grain on sexual issues. At the end of day, marrying your cousin doesn’t have much bearing on whether you either made it or wasted your time.

  40. what



    Thoroughly discredit means…scientifically established?

    does it

    I didn’t think it did

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