Petition for Nevada

If you are not a resident of Nevada, but would have liked to celebrate your marriage there,
please be sure to include additional comments to that effect!

Please be aware that by signing this Nevada Petition, you are also signing the General Petition for all states. Please Read the General Petition here. It is not necessary to submit your information on both forms!

We, the undersigned on this petition, would like to ask you to step forward and carefully consider a change in legislation pertaining to marriage between first cousins, and first cousins once removed. Current Nevada laws prohibit marriages among couples of these two groups of individuals.

Legal impediments against such marriages achieve substantial interference with the fundamental right to marry, as a matter of substantive due process of law, under the 14th Amendment [Zablocki vs. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374 (1978)]. We believe that proponents of this law are unable to prove that such a law is necessary to further a compelling interest.

Furthermore, legal impediments against such marriages in the state of Nevada disenfranchises a significant number of couples whose marriages would be recognized as legal and valid in their state or country of residence.

Respectfully, we submit the following:

1) According to the National Society for Genetic Counselors and to the Centre for Human Genetics, 

A) offspring of first cousins have only a 3% increased risk of inheriting genetic disabilities over the offspring of unrelated couples. Such an increase is proportionate with the risk to offspring of a woman who smokes, and of parents from certain ethnic origins. This increase is also far less than that of a woman over the age of 35, or of any parent who suffers from or carries one of may x-linked or dominant gene disorders. 

B) offspring of first cousins once removed have only a 1.5% increased risk of inheriting genetic disabilities over the offspring of unrelated couples. Furthermore, the current law permits marriage between first cousins of the half blood, which is the genetic eqivalent of first cousins once removed.

To quote Nobel Prize winning Dr. Joshua Lederberg, 'it should be stressed that inbreeding does not in any way generate "bad genes."' Geneticists agree that the risk increases only if the couple are carriers of existing genetic defects. 

We believe that laws prohibiting marriage between cousins serve to prejudice the marital rights and freedoms of one group of individuals over another. 

2) We further submit that 

A) first-cousin marriage is lawful in 20 of our states, in Washington DC, throughout Canada and Europe, and most of Asia. The United States is currently the only country in the Western World which has legal impediments to such marriages. 

B) marriage between first cousins once removed is legal in 44 of our states.

C) Eight additional states make exceptions for couples who meet certain criteria in regards to genetic counseling requirements, age or sterility, or aboriginal culture.

D) At least eight states which would otherwise prohibit such marriages will legally recognize a marriage which takes place elsewhere in order to evade the laws of the couple's resident state.

A law in any state which prohibits marriage between first cousins, by its mere existence (i.e. Ex Post Facto) may make a lawful marriage unlawful simply because the person crossed a state border. When such conflicts exist, the law that unduly restricts freedom of association or movement across state borders is unenforceable under the federal constitution. 

3) We submit that Nevada, a state which is recognized as the marriage capital of the world, and whose economy is based primarily on tourism, is restricting revenue from couples of both national and international origin who would choose to celebrate their marriage here. This restriction of revenue significantly affects tourism from the neighboring state of California, and to a lesser extent, the states of Arizona and Utah, in which marriages among first cousins (California) and first cousins once removed are permitted. 

4) The impediments imposed by Nevada, and certain other states, were enacted at a time when genetics were not fully understood, and statistical data was insufficient.

5)  Finally, we submit that a far more just and reasonable alternative exists. This alternative includes, but is not limited to, providing educational materials regarding genetic risks to first cousin couples desiring a marriage license. Information pertaining to genetic counseling, and possibly vouchers for such counseling might also be made available to couples without insurance.

One out of every one thousand marriages is between first cousins, who face enormous prejudices in society that are based on misinformation. The statistics are dramatically increased when including marriages between first cousins once removed. We urge you to consider both the social and economic implications of prohibiting cousin marriages, and recognize that the cure for social degradation is education, not restrictions based upon unfounded popular opinion.

The Undersigned


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