Hal Bookbinder: A Legal Question

JGSLA Members Only Content: Member Articles

by Hal Bookbinder

Where in the U.S. may a man marry his niece?

Jewish Law (#83-#100 of the 613 commandments, refer to http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm) describes prohibited relations, including with one’s mother, step-mother, aunt, sister, step-sister, sister-in-law, daughter, step-daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughter and step-granddaughter. But, there is no prohibition on marrying one’s grandmother or niece.

All 50 U.S. states ban marriages between a man and his niece with one exception. Rhode Island law (§ 15-1-4) permits such marriages, but only among Jews! This law exempts Jews from consanguinity restrictions in state law so long as the relationship is permitted by Jewish law.

Rhode Island Statutes on Domestic Relations (refer to http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/statutes/):

  • § 15-1-1 Men forbidden to marry kindred. – No man shall marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, son’s daughter, daughter’s daughter, stepmother, grandfather’s wife, son’s wife, son’s son’s wife, daughter’s son’s wife, wife’s mother, wife’s grandmother, wife’s daughter, wife’s son’s daughter, wife’s daughter’s daughter, sister, brother’s daughter, sister’s daughter, father’s sister, or mother’s sister.
  • § 15-1-2 Women forbidden to marry kindred. – No woman shall marry her father, grandfather, son, son’s son, daughter’s son, stepfather, grandmother’s husband, daughter’s husband, son’s daughter’s husband, daughter’s daughter’s husband, husband’s father, husband’s grandfather, husband’s son, husband’s son’s son, husband’s daughter’s son, brother, brother’s son, sister’s son, father’s brother, or mother’s brother.
  • § 15-1-3 Incestuous marriages void. – If any man or woman intermarries within the degrees stated in § 15-1-1 or § 15-1-2, the marriage shall be null and void.
  • § 15-1-4 Marriages of kindred allowed by Jewish religion. – The provisions of §§ 15-1-1 – 15-1-3 shall not extend to, or in any way affect, any marriage which shall be solemnized among the Jewish people, within the degrees of affinity or consanguinity allowed by their religion.