Why is marrying your cousin legal in Tennessee? – WSMV 4

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – A bill that would ban marriage between first cousins in the Volunteer State is moving forward.

House Bill 2041, initially filed for introduction by Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, would prohibit marriage between first cousins. Jernigan explained the reasoning for the bill during the Tennessee House’s Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee meeting on Tuesday.

“I know everybody has been waiting for this bill,” Jernigan quipped. “In 1829, the (Tennessee) General Assembly enacted a law that marriage could not be contracted with a lineal ancestor or descendant, nor the lineal ancestor or descendant of either parent, nor the child of a grandparent, nor the lineal descendants of a husband or a wife, nor the husband, wife or parent of a lineal descendant.”

In 1960, Tennessee’s attorney general issued an opinion that the statute did not prohibit marriage between first cousins.

“While I do not know the intent of the 18th General Assembly, or why the AG gave that opinion, I’m hoping in 2024 we can close this loophole,” Jernigan said.

The Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee recommended the bill for passage, and it was referred to the Civil Justice Committee. It was also recommended for passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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