Oklahoma SB 1448 Signed Into Law By Governor Mary Fallin

You may remember the controversy surrounding a recently-enacted law in Oklahoma that restricts access to vital records for many years. Amongst other provisions, the law requires copies of death certificates to be issued only to the person who is listed on the certificate. That’s right, for the first 75 years following a death, you can’t order a death certificate unless you are dead!

Now the state legislature had a chance to fix the problem, but failed to do so. The following was received from Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies’ Public Records Access Monitoring Committee:

Oklahoma SB 1448 was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin on April 30, 2014. It becomes effective November 1, 2014. The bill was supposed to correct the legislation enacted several years ago that addressed vital records. Last year when a professional genealogist tried to obtain a copy of a death record it was found out that the law only permitted the named person-the deceased- to request their own death record. The law also made it a felony if a Department of Health Services employee provided the death certificate to anyone other the named person. Instead of “fixing” the glitch, the state incorporated the Model Vital Records Act provisions which closes records for 125 years for births, death records for 75 years, and marriage and divorce records for 100 years. Unfortunately, the new law retained the same language –permitting only the “named person” to obtain the record during the embargo period. Therefore, for death records only the deceased may request their own records within the 75 years from date of death. The Oklahoma Genealogy Society decided that this was better than never having any access as was included in the original law from several years ago. To read the enrolled version see: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2013-14%20ENR/SB/SB1448%20ENR.PDF.

HB 3028 which was reported upon earlier and would merge the Oklahoma Historical Society into the Department of Tourism, History and Cultural Affairs has had no further action—heard in House Government Modernization Committee in early March. However, as the legislature does not adjourn until May 30, it is always possible that it may be appended into another bill. The genealogical community will continue to monitor.

7 Comments

The ban on obtaining a death certificate for ANY period of time prevents heirs from claiming any kind of death benefits, not to mention how ignorant it is to pass/sign a bill with such an error in it. Proves that no one read the bill!

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There appears to be one loophole. A judge can issue an order for a heir to obtain a death certificate. One more task for the probate courts.

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When my wife died almost three years ago the funeral director supplied me with a number of certified death certificates that I needed for insurance, accounts, student loans, etc. Does this mean that if she had died in Oklahoma I wouldn’t have been able to get death certificates?

“Suppose you were a member of Congress, and suppose you were an idiot,
but I repeat myself” Mark Twain

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    Yes we have many of those (idiots) running our country and making laws that they don’t read or understand the contents of the laws they pass

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I think Ruth has it right, no one read the bill. Surely someone in that body of legislators has lost a loved one and needed a death certificate in order to address end-of-life matters. And to remarry after the death of a spouse a death certificate is necessary to prevent bigamy (at least in most states!). Surely there is a legislator out there who can champion the need to amend this.

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Can anyone explain the death registration process which applies in Oklahoma, or for that matter in the USA in general, for context of the problem in a non Family History situation.

Here in the UK when I registered my wife’s death, I sat opposite a Registrar who typed the details in the computer and then printed off the number of certificates I felt I needed to inform all those places that needed to be told of the death.

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Why not either start a petition or introduce bill whereby a person while making a will can give permission for certain named persons to obtain their death certificate? If my death certificate is mine…why couldn’t I bequest it to others?

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