Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Colorado Gets Stupid

I like Colorado. I lived there for eight years and have many friends there. And I have praised both their state archives as well as their easily accessible marriage and divorce records. But now Colorado has gone stupid. The State Department of Public Health and Environment has taken down their site that used to list marriages and divorces in Colorado. They've imposed a strict set of identification rules in order to get access to marriage and divorce records. In this respect, Colorado has gone further than any other state concerned about alleged identity theft. While some states have restricted access to birth records, virtually no other state has so thoroughly shut down access to marriage and divorce records because of identity theft concerns.

There is no evidence that anyone has ever had their identity stolen through the use of state marriage or divorce records. So for a draconian response to a nonexistent problem, I say Colorado has gone stupid.

This is of personal interest to me for two reasons: (1) I have family ties in Colorado and tracing marriages and divorces there has been important to my research, but (2) I was married in Colorado and I've never had the least concern about the fact that that information was publicly available! In fact, here's the transcript of what used to be available on Colorado's marriage records website about me:

Colorado Marriage Detail

Groom Groom Information MANSON, HAROLD C County EL PASO
Bride Bride Information PENNY, MARGARETT A Date 03/21/1987

Disclaimer: Official marriage records are located in the Colorado County Clerk and Recorder office where the license was purchased. If you detect an error in a record on the Web site, please contact the Clerk and Recorder to ensure that the official record contains the correct information. [25 Feb 2006]

There are good public policy reasons that we require witnesses at marriages and that we [used to] make public the names of people in the community who got married. There will bizarre unintended consequences from Colorado's decision in this issue, I can assure you.

We need to address identity theft, but not by hiding our identities everywhere. That in fact makes it easier, not harder, for the bad people to get away with their crimes.

Thanks to Chris for the tip.

1 comment:

Miriam said...

Craig, I blogged about this issue back in March 2006, when the Colorado state legislature was debating a bill that would prevent access to marriage records. The bill did not pass, but now the state has gone ahead and restricted access anyway. So much for the will of the people and legislative process!