Bobbi Kristina Brown Engaged to Her Adoptive-Brother Nick Gordon

October 11, 2012
Louis Sternberg

Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, has recently confirmed that she is now engaged to her adoptive brother Nick Gordon.  Many people will question whether such a marriage is legal or whether it violates laws regulating marriage between family members.

The problem is that an adoption creates a familial relationship between the adoptive parent and the adoptive child with all the same legal rights and responsibilities of the relationship between a parent and a naturally-born child. Because the adoption created a legal sibling relationship between Bobbi and Nick, the question is whether the two adoptive-siblings would be permitted to marry under New York Law.

New York Domestic Relations Law § 5 provides that:

A marriage is incestuous and void whether the relatives are legitimate or illegitimate between either:

  1. An ancestor and a descendant;
  2. A brother and sister of either the whole or the half blood;
  3. An uncle and niece or an aunt and nephew.

If a marriage prohibited by the foregoing provisions of this section be solemnized it shall be void, and the parties thereto shall each be fined not less than fifty nor more than one hundred dollars and may, in the discretion of the court in addition to said fine, be imprisoned for a term not exceeding six months. Any person who shall knowingly and wilfully solemnize such marriage, or procure or aid in the solemnization of the same, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined or imprisoned in like manner.


In the only New York case addressing a similar issue, the 1975 case of Bagnardi v. Hartnett, the Rensselaer County Supreme Court ruled that a marriage between an adoptive father and his adopted daughter was legally permissible.

Many critics are speculating that the engagement is merely a celebrity publicity stunt by Bobbi and Nick in order to promote their new reality show “The Houstons: On Our Own.”