There is much debate in America over the question of permitting cousins to marry legally. Marriage between cousins has occurred for thousands of years and only recently fallen out of favor.

Child marriage, also once condoned, is illegal in many parts of Nevada, but there is a sect promoting it in Colorado, Nevada and other places out west.

It’s Often The Girl’s Decision

When Jessica was ,16, she married a man far older than she was.

“You’re supposed to get married as young as you can,” says the now-26-year-old.

She’s not the only girl to make this decision. Searching public records going back to 1997, The Salt Lake Tribune found 65 marriages among Nevada branch members of the Kingston Group where the bride was between 15 and 17.

Most of those marriages took place in Colorado where it is lawful to wed your cousin, but the Tribune also found three marriages which took place in Nevada. Former members of the sect say there may be hundreds more such marriage certificates at county clerk offices throughout the West.

“The marriage wasn’t forced,” said one female member of the group, who asked not to be identified. “It was all on me and that’s often the case — it is the girl’s decision to get married young or not.”

Is It Marriage Or A Job Interview?

While dating and romance among the groups’ youth is forbidden, the group does hold dances. When someone expresses an interest in marriage, the next steps are more like a job interview than courtship.

Once a potential groom receives a ‘revelation’ on whom he is to marry, he talks with his father.

If dad feels his son received real guidance from God, the son goes to a “spiritual counselor” for more guidance. If the counselor approves the marriage, the groom travels to see the girl’s father. Only after the father gives his blessing can the groom speak with the girl he has in mind.

When Jessica was 15, she was given a list of suitors by her father, her top choice, the one whom she thought God wanted her to marry, was five years older. Jessica and the hopeful groom were related — on both sides — to the family tree, but distant enough not to run headlong into the state’s ban on marriage between siblings or first cousins.

“A near neighbor is better than a distant cousin.” » Italian Proverb

The question of whether it is legal to marry a cousin is interesting because the law varies between states. In Nevada cousins are not permitted to marry — at all.  In the Silver State, it is also unlawful to marry any children of your cousin, called ‘cousin once removed.’

In Nevada, marrying your cousin is a criminal offense and is considered incest. When most hear the word “incest,” they suppose sex must be involved, but that is overly narrow in defining the idea of incest.

Under Nevada law, incest includes marriage.

To clarify:

Under Nevada law, NRS 201.180, sex, acts of adultery and marriage between cousins and second cousins all are criminal acts of incest.

The underlying rationale is the concern that offspring between cousins could develop genetic problems. Nevada’s law intends to deter inbreeding in family bloodlines by making cousin-marriage a felony level criminal offense.

Conviction of marrying a cousin in Nevada means the possibility of between two years in jail and life imprisonment, and a fine up to $10,000.

The Takeaway

Reflect for a while before proposing to your cousin in Nevada. If you have more questions, or think you may be in jeopardy, call Nicholas Wooldridge, Las Vegas’ top-echelon criminal defense lawyer, today.