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Sofia Ahmed
By Sofia Ahmed January 22, 2024

Kentucky lawmaker isn’t pushing to legalize incest. He made a mistake, withdrew bill.

If Your Time is short

  • On Jan. 17, Kentucky state Rep. Nick Wilson, R-Williamsburg, withdrew a Jan. 16 bill that he said contained an "inadvertent" error that removed the phrase "first cousins" from the state’s list of prohibited sexual relationships considered incest.

  • Also on Jan. 17, Wilson filed corrected draft legislation that seeks to strengthen the state’s incest law. It retained the ban on sex between first cousins. 

  • Learn more about PolitiFact’s fact-checking process and rating system.

Social media will not let one Kentucky lawmaker live down what he said was an "inadvertent" error when filing a bill intended to strengthen the state’s anti-incest law.

"Kentucky Republican introduces bill to legalize sex with first cousins," read what looks like a screengrab of a headline shared Jan. 17 on Instagram."‘Survivor’ winner and Kentucky Republican lawmaker Nick Wilson wants to legalize sexual relations with first cousins as one of his flagship legislative issues in the 2024 session," the words in the screengrab continued, crediting Newsweek for the information.

Wilson — 2018 winner of CBS’ "Survivor: David vs. Goliath," reality TV competition — did file legislation that proposed this change. But the state representative from Williamsburg quickly withdrew the legislation, acknowledged it as a mistake and, on Jan. 17, refiled a new draft that left intact the language barring sex between first cousins.

The headline in the Jan. 17 post came from Raw Story, which has since updated its story with a note that Wilson retracted the bill and said the omission was unintended. 

But some social media posts made days later continued to excoriate Wilson’s proposal. "Sick," read a caption on one such post made Jan. 19. 

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The posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

A web-archived version of House Bill 269 shows that Wilson’s original Jan. 16 bill struck the phrase "first cousin" from the list of family members with whom the law says it would be illegal to engage in sexual contact.

Wilson withdrew the bill a day later, writing in a Jan. 17 Facebook post that "first cousins" was mistakenly removed from the list of relationships considered incest.

"During the drafting process, there was an inadvertent change, which struck ‘first cousins’ from the list of relationships under the incest statute, and I failed to add it back in," Wilson wrote, noting that he planned to refile a bill with the phrase restored.

Wilson said the bill was intended to add the phrase "sexual contact" to the list of activities prohibited between blood relations. Until now, the law prohibited only "sexual intercourse" and "sexual deviate intercourse" between those relatives.

Wilson reintroduced House Bill 289 on Jan. 17 with first cousins included as familial relations considered as incest.

The claim that a Kentucky lawmaker "wants to legalize sexual relations with first cousins" is misleading. Wilson said his bill language was submitted in error — he quickly withdrew it and submitted a new bill that aims to strengthen the state’s incest laws, not loosen them. We rate the claim False. 

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Kentucky lawmaker isn’t pushing to legalize incest. He made a mistake, withdrew bill.

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