Is Sex with Your Cousin Illegal in Texas?
In many states, sex with your cousin is completely legal. In the South here, states generally have more rigid laws surrounding sexual intercourse between cousins.
However, other states are much more lenient in this regard. Arizona and Illinois, for whatever reason, are two such states. If you’re really curious about what each of the 50 states thinks, you can check out this chart at Wikipedia.
What’s the deal here in Texas? As in many other legal matters, we’re pretty strict. While many states allow you to marry your first cousin, you cannot do so in Texas.
In fact, Texas passed laws as recently as 2005 (the most recent of all states passing such laws) that forbade you from having sex with your cousin. Representative Harvey Hilderbran snuck in an amendment to a bill targeting polygamy. He’s quoted as saying in the New York Times:
“Cousins don’t get married just like siblings don’t get married. And when it happens you have a bad result. It’s just not the normal accepted thing.”
In other words, he didn’t really have a good reason for doing it other than he didn’t like it. According to the New York Times, a 2002 study published in The Journal of Genetic Counseling said the risk of serious birth defects in children between related parents is 1.7 to 2.8 percentage points higher than the risk for children of unrelated parents. In practical terms, the risk of serious birth defects for children of related parents is equal to that of women having children in their 40s. That’s a slightly elevated risk, but not one that justifies the harsh punishments Texas wants to hand down.
Commentary is also made that the closeness of the relation doesn’t necessarily matter. What does matter is how the genetics between the two cousins may work. For example, one pair of first cousins may have a higher risk for birth defects while another pair may not.
What’s interesting is that the United States is the only developed country that bans marriage and sex between first cousins. While Texas passed this ban only recently, most bans passed shortly after the Civil War when the government aimed to seize control over private lives. Other nations associated cousin marriage with royalty and the aristocracy, but the US associated it with politically low-powered groups like immigrants and poor people living in the country.
Nevertheless, Texas currently bans marriage between first cousins.
What Happens If You’re Caught Having Sex with Your Cousin?
While you can make any number of arguments or jokes about sex between cousins, what isn’t funny is how Texas handles it. In fact, it’s now “prohibited sexual conduct” in Texas because they simply copied the language found in Utah’s law.
For example, Ruben Perez and Elvira Martinez were charged under this law, which makes sex between cousins a 3rd-degree felony. 3rd-degree felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Unfortunately for Ruben, he had a previous felony cocaine conviction. So that mean this felony was enhanced to a second degree felony, which could have put him in prison for up to 20 years!
Plus, if convicted, you must register as a lifetime sex offender. So, even though you may have consensual sex with another adult, you’re now treated just the same as a serial rapist or child molester. At least, that’s how Texas wants to look at it anyway.
And that happens even though the science shows you’re not putting your children at a much higher risk of birth defects.
What Should You Do If You Find Texas Authorities Arresting and Threatening You with Jail Time for Having Sex with Your Cousin?
Some statistics quote that around 1 in 1000 of all marriages in the US are between cousins. In Texas, you can’t marry your cousin in the state and have it recognized as legal in Texas. However, you can marry your first cousin in another state and have the marriage recognized as legal and valid in Texas.
But, you can still break the law by actually having sex with your first cousin in Texas. And you already learned about the devastating consequences of doing so. It makes no sense, but it is the reality you live in.
Texas goes way overboard in prosecuting crimes. So, it can happen where you get accused of the “crime” of having sex with your first cousin. Most likely, this comes about as a result of investigating you for other crimes.
What do you do?
Well, you the same thing you would if you were accused of any other crime. Give authorities your name and address, and that’s it.
Don’t utter another peep, except to ask for your phone call to your lawyer.
Then, when you do call a lawyer, make sure you use one with extensive experience in defending sex crimes. It may seem like an absurd case, but Texas authorities take these very seriously, just like they would with any other case. And with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you have the best chance of reducing your punishment, or avoiding it entirely.