2019 Utah Legislative Session – expanded definition of incestuous marriage

Welcome back to our feature on new laws from the 2019 Utah Legislative Session. There were a lot of changes in family law in 2019, and were going to tell you about all of them, just not all at once. One amendment was made by House Bill 422, which expanded the definition of incestuous marriages; clarified what marriages are prohibited and void and when; replaced certain references to gender specific terms with gender neutral terms; established who may solemnize a marriage; and addressed the content of a marriage license. Now that same-sex marriage is legal, the Utah legislature felt it appropriate to expand the definition of what an incestuous marriage could include. In other words, before gay marriage was legalized, no one had really ever thought that to fellow nephews whatever try to marry each other, and if they ever did, it would be obvious that they were legally prohibited from doing so. With gay marriage legal, however, the Utah legislature felt it appropriate to outlaw marriage between two nephews or two nieces. You may be surprised and interested to know that in Utah first cousins can, under certain circumstances marry one another. If they are both 65 years of age or older, first cousins can marry. If the first cousins are both 55 years of age or older, if the district court finds that either party is unable to reproduce, they too can marry. House Bill 422 also clarified the list of people who are authorized to conduct marriages. Whereas before the list included ministers, rabbis, or priests of any religious denomination who are “in regular communion with any religious society” who are 18 years of age or older, that language of the code has now been changed to read “an individual 18 years of age or older who is authorized by religious denomination to solemnize a marriage”. House Bill 422 does not define the term “religious denomination,” and so it appears that almost anyone can solemnize a marriage if he or she claims to be authorized by his or her particular religious denomination, and if the religion you’re a part of right now won’t allow you to solemnize marriages, as it stands now, it looks like you could just create your own religion authorize yourself.

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