This is an ALERT
to proposed changes to access to Vital Records
in the State of Washington, SB 5332-2019-20.
Currently, Washington is an open records state.
Change has been proposed by the Dept. of Health to restrict access
to Vital Records in our state. DOH is proposing changes based on a
“best practices” in vital records control and recommendations
from the Federal Government, citing privacy concerns and identity
theft. These changes will affect all genealogists!
Here is a brief summary of the proposed
Placing restrictions on release of records to
100 years for live birth and fetal death
50 years for death, marriage, divorce,
annulment, legal separation and dissolution of domestic partnerships
Placing restrictions on who certified copies of
Vital Records (birth, death, marriage, and divorce) may be released
Birth Certificates will only be released to
the “subject of the record” (yourself), the subject’s spouse
or domestic partner, child, parent, step-parent, sibling,
grandparent, legal guardian, legal representative or authorized
representative before the 100 year embargo.
Death Certificates will be released to the
decedent’s spouse or domestic partner, child, parent, step-parent,
sibling, grandparent, grandchild, legal guardian immediately prior
to death, legal representative, authorized representative or next of
kin as specified in RCW 11.28.120 before the 50 year embargo.
Certificate of Fetal Death will be released to
a parent, a parent’s legal representative, an authorized
representative, sibling or a grandparent before the 100 year
The State may issue an informational copy to a
vital record to anyone. Informational copies must contain only the
information “allowed by rule”.
Informational death copies will not include
information related to the cause of death and manner of death.
“Authorized representative” will include
genealogists. This will require a notarized letter of permission
from next of kin and personal identification.
Applicants will be required to provide
identification and proof of relationship to obtain certified copies
of vital records.
WSGS has been working with the Records
Preservation and Access Committee of the Federation of Genealogical
Societies, the National Genealogical Society and the International
Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies on this issue.
WSGS has taken the position that:
Vital Records are the backbone of our
profession and hobby. Access to these records is essential to our
work and embargo periods to records are unnecessarily restrictive.
We support keeping all Vital Records open.
Access to vital records has not been demonstrated to increase the
risk of identity theft. We believe that keeping birth, marriage,
divorce and death records open does more to prevent identity theft.
Keeping the cause of death on Informational
Death Records is essential to genetic and forensic genealogists.
We support proposed changes to cover the cost
for providing access to Vital Records.
Redaction of Social Security numbers on an
Informational Copies of Vital Records is supported.
We are asking all of you to please contact your
local Senator, the members of the Senate Law and Justice Committee
and the sponsors of the bill; Sen. Jamie Pederson, Sen. Ann Rivers,
Sen. Claire Wilson, Sen. Maureen Walsh, Sen. Emily Randall, Sen.
Annette Cleveland and Sen. Marko Liias. This bill is scheduled for a
hearing before the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Thursday, Jan.
31, 2019 at 10am. Please submit your comments before Thursday!
Senate Law & Justice Committee: Sen. Jamie Pederson Sen. Manka Dhingra Sen. Mike Padden Sen. Jeff Holy Sen. Patty Kuderer Sen. Jessie Salomon Sen. Lynda Wilson
The proposed changes to the Vital Records Initiative, SB 5332 – 2019 – 20, can be read in its entirety at the link below. You can use this link to access a copy of the bill and/or make comments. Watch on TVW.
Thank you for your attention. Sincerely,
Virginia Majewski, President, Washington State