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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
A section of the Hawaii marriage law caught our attention. It appears to allow cousins, as close as first cousins, to tie the knot -- or does it?
"I just don't know. It's really ambiguous," attorney Jim Hochberg said. "Maybe the legislative history of when that language was put in would indicate whether they meant for cousins to be able to marry or not."
He isn't alone in his uncertainty.
Attorney Jo-Ann Adams wrote the wording for Hawaii's Civil Union law. She studied the marriage statute.
"But I always pondered what does that really mean? Because if it really means in no degree of relationship whatsoever, I don't think anyone bothers to do a real genealogy chart to say, are we possibly related by the same ancestor?" she said.
The state law is statute 572-1 section 1. It specifies which family members are prohibited from marrying each other, but it doesn't say cousins can't marry.
We asked the state Health Department's Registrar of Vital Statistics if cousin marriage is legal.
"It's our understanding that the law allows us to marry first cousins," Dr. Alvin Onaka said.
He said Hawaii is one of 20 states, including California, Florida and New York that allow opposite-sex cousins to marry.
"We're in good company of 19 other states that do allow this. And I believe there are six others that have some more qualifications," Onaka said.
Hochberg said he hasn't heard of any challenges to the Hawaii statute.
"Regardless of what the statute says, if nobody is complaining about it, it's not a case," he said.
The state Health Department doesn't keep statistics on how many cousin couples get married. If you have any questions about who can legally marry in Hawaii go to www.health.hawaii.gov.