By Jed McKeehan

Let’s talk about something uncomfortable. Yes, unfortunately, lawyers do have to discuss uncomfortable topics from time to time.

The topic today is incest. The dictionary definition of incest is, “sexual relations between people classed as being too closely related to marry each other.”

Incest is frowned upon and illegal for a variety of psychological and sociological reasons, but from a purely medical standpoint, the breeding of individuals who are closely related can often lead to birth defects.

Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-3-101 prohibits incest in marriages stating, “marriages cannot be contracted with a lineal ancestor or descendant, nor the lineal ancestor or descendant of either parent, nor the child of a grandparent, nor the lineal descendants of husband or wife, as the case may be, nor the husband or wife of a parent or lineal descendant.”

That can be a little confusing to follow, but the safe answer is, do not marry anyone to whom you are related in any way.

Additionally, engaging in incestual sexual relations with a relative is a Class C Felony crime.

Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-15-302 states, “A person commits incest who engages in sexual relations with a person, knowing the person to be, without regard to legitimacy:

1. The person’s natural parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, stepparent, stepchild, adoptive parent, adoptive child; or

2. The person’s brother or sister of the whole or half-blood or by adoption.

Now let’s all wash our hands after discussing this topic.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including family law, criminal, and personal injury. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.