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      Get Smart on the Web   09/16/2016

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How would a state know you're related anyway?

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I'm sure this has been discussed before, but if cousins moved to a new state (where cousin marriage is illegal, but dating a cousin is not) and didn't share the same last name...and then got married... who would ever notice or bother to find out the couple is related? It seems like something that would only be revealed or be a problem if a disgruntled family member or other person reported it. 

I'd like to discuss this as a hypothetical situation, since I'm sure no one advocates actually breaking a law.


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All laws related to cousin relationships and marriage vary on a state by state basis, which is really frustrating. For example, I and my husband/first cousin live in Ohio, where it is illegal for us to marry. There is a question on the marriage application that we would have had to lie on, and in the unlikely circumstance that anyone ever found out and decided to cause problems, it could have gotten very complicated for us. Additionally, my health insurance has a stipulation in it that it can't cover a first cousin as a "partner".

However, Ohio has a law that states that they will accept the validity of marriages created in other states. We married in Tennessee, where first cousin marriage is legal, and Ohio accepts that as a legal marriage, and my husband is now covered under my health insurance under the category of "spouse", which doesn't have the same stipulation as "partner".

I am not a lawyer, but it is my belief, based on the research I've done, that the federal law protecting gay marriage would win a case in a court of law for any marriage accepted by some states but not others. Because my husband and I now have a legally recognized marriage and all the protections that go with it, we are not going to be the couple to pursue this (unless we moved to a state where there was some question about the legality of our marriage). I do hope that someone will take it to court though, and that the legal rights of cousin couples will be recognized on a federal level, overriding all of this horribly frustrating and complicated state by state nonsense. Good luck with figuring out the details for yourself, and if you do find loopholes in your state as I did in mine, I'm sure other people here would appreciate if you shared that.

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