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W. Vital Statistics


  • Alaska

    The general public records law specifically excepts vital statistics records, and says these "shall be treated in the manner required by AS 18.50." It is unlawful for a person to permit inspection of, or disclose information contained in, vital statistics records, or to copy or issue a copy of all or part of such records, except as authorized by the statute or regulations. Notwithstanding AS 40.25.120, when 100 years have elapsed from the date of birth, or 50 years after a death, marriage, divorce, dissolution or annulment, these records become public. AS 18.50.310(a), (f).

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  • Arizona

    Vital records are confidential and can only be disclosed in accordance with the statute.  A.R.S. § 36-342; see Schoeneweis, 223 Ariz. at 174-75, 221 P.3d at 53-54 (determining that death certificates cannot be released to the general public).  A “vital record” is defined as either “a registered birth certificate or a registered death certificate.”  A.R.S. § 36-301(34).

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  • California

    Public, except for those parts which contain medical, family and other statutorily specified information. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 102430.

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  • Colorado

    Vital statistics records shall be treated as confidential, but the department of public health and environment shall, upon request, furnish to any applicant having a direct and tangible interest in a vital statistics record a certified copy of any record. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 25-2-117(1).

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  • Delaware

    Records of the Office of Vital Statistics are generally confidential but become public records after significant periods of time have passed. 16 Del. C. § 3110.

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  • District of Columbia

    Information gathered under the Vital Records Act is excluded from the D.C. Act altogether, and can only be disclosed pursuant to the terms of the Vital Records Act. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-534(d).  The Vital Records Act prohibits disclosure of the records noted below except as provided by that chapter. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-231.24. Under the Vital Records Act, disclosure is permissible only to a person with a direct, tangible interest in the record. Such a person is defined as (1) a person about whom the information is gathered, and his or her immediate family, guardian or legal representative; or (2) a person who needs the information to determine or protect a personal or property right.

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  • Georgia

    Access to vital records maintained by the Georgia Office of Vital Records is restricted by statute and administrative rule.  See O.C.G.A. § 31-10-25; Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 511-1-3-.33.

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  • Idaho

    All records of vital statistics are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Idaho Code § 74-106(4)(e).

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  • Iowa

    The following vital statistics in the possession of a county registrar or state archivist may be inspected and copied (if the records are at least seventy-five years old):

    (1) a record of birth if, that birth did not occur out of wedlock;

    (2) a record of marriage;

    (3) a record of divorce, dissolution or annulment; and

    (4) a record of death, if that death was not a fetal death.

    Iowa Code § 144.43.

    It is unlawful for the state registrar to permit inspection of, or to disclose information contained in vital statistics records, or to copy or permit to be copied all or part of any such record except as authorized by rule. Id.

    Public records shall not be withheld from the public because they are combined with data processing software. Id. The state registrar must separate a public record from the data processing software in order to permit examination of the public record. Id.

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  • Kansas

    Vital statistics are not available for public disclosure pursuant to K.S.A. 45-221(a) and K.S.A. 65-2422d(c).

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  • Kentucky

    Access to vital records, including birth and death records, is governed Ky. Rev. Stat. 213.131 et seq. Ky. Rev. Stat. 213.131(1) and (2) provide for limited access to vital records. Ky. Rev. Stat. 213.131(1) states:

    (1) To protect the integrity of vital records, to insure their proper use, and to insure the efficient and proper administration of the system of vital statistics, it shall be unlawful for any person to permit inspection of, or to disclose information contained in vital records or to copy or issue a copy of all or part of any record except as authorized by this chapter, by regulation, or by order of a court of competent jurisdiction. Administrative regulations adopted by the cabinet shall provide for adequate standards of security and confidentiality of vital records and shall conform to subsection (4) of this section.

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  • Louisiana

    The state registrar is the custodian of vital statistics, but he or she may delegate his or her functions and duties to employees of the registry. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:40(A), (E). In general, records are only available for inspection by, or issuance of a copy to, the person named in the records, their immediate or surviving family, the beneficiary of an insurance policy or trust, or attorneys acting on behalf of these, as per La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:41(C)(1)-(2). Marriage records, however, are not subject to subsection (C), see § 40:41(C)(3), and so presumably are public records normally disclosable, § 40:41(A).

    Information may also be disclosed to other state's vital statistics agencies and federal agencies responsible for vital statistics as necessary for statistical and administrative purposes, provided arrangements are made for the retention and disposal of the records. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:41(F), (G).

    Vital statistics information received from other states is to be handled in the same manner as Louisiana records under this section. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40:41(G).

    Military Discharge. Any discharge certificate or other evidence of honorable separation from the armed forces of the United States filed on or after July 1, 2000, is not considered a public record. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:20.

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  • Minnesota

    With certain exceptions relating to birth records, information contained in vital records is public.  Minn. Stat. § 144.225, subd. 1. Physical access to vital records is subject to the supervision and regulation of the state registrar and its employees. Id.

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  • Mississippi

    Only available to those with “legitimate and tangible interest.” § 41-57-2.

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  • Missouri

    Vital records are certificates or reports of birth, death, marriage, divorce, and related data. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 193.015. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 193.245 provides that it is unlawful to permit inspection of or to release information from vital records, except as authorized by statute, regulation, or a court of competent jurisdiction. A list of names of persons who were born or died on a particular date may be disclosed. Id. The Department of Vital Records may also authorize the disclosure of information from vital records “for legitimate research purposes” and death records over fifty years old. Id. In Campbell & Associates, Inc. v. Sharma, No. 884‑00076 (City of St. Louis Cir. Ct. 1988), the Missouri Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis held that reporters investigating news stories, as a matter of law, have such a “legitimate research purpose.” In addition, Mo.Rev.Stat. § 193.255 provides that only those persons with a “direct and tangible interest” in a vital record may obtain a certified copy.

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  • New Hampshire

    RSA Ch. 5-C governs “vital” records. Section 9 reads:

    Disclosure of Information From Vital Records. –
    In order to protect the integrity of vital records, to ensure their proper use, and to ensure the efficient and proper administration of the system of vital statistics, the registrar or the custodian of permanent local records shall not permit inspection of, or disclose information contained in vital statistics records, or copy or issue a copy of all or part of any such record unless he or she is satisfied that the applicant has a direct and tangible interest in such record.

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  • New Mexico

    Information found in vital records (birth and death certificates) that are maintained by the vital statistics bureau is not available for public inspection, except as narrowly authorized by law. NMSA 1978 § 24-14-27(A).

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  • North Dakota

    Birth, death, and fetal death records, filings, data, or other information related to birth, death, and fetal death records, except as authorized, are confidential. See N.D.C.C. § 23-02.1-27.

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  • Rhode Island

    Generally closed except in the situations described in R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-3-23.

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  • Texas

    Section 552.115 excepts from public disclosure birth and death records maintained by the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the Texas Department of Health, except that birth records become public 75 years after the date of birth shown on the record filed and death records become public 25 years after the date shown on the record filed. "[S]ubject to [Texas Board of Health] rules controlling the accessibility of vital records, the state registrar shall supply to a properly qualified applicant, on request, a certified copy of a record, or part of a record, of a birth, death, or fetal death registered under this title." Tex. Health & Safety Code § 191.051(a). The Bureau of Vital Statistics "shall furnish on request any information it has on record relating to any marriage, divorce, or annulment of marriage." Tex. Health & Safety Code § 194.0049(a). But, the Bureau may not issue a certificate or a certified copy of information relating to a marriage, report of divorce or annulment of marriage.  Tex. Health & Safety Code § 194.0049(b).

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  • Utah

    “Vital records” (birth, death, abortion, marriage, divorce, annulments, adoptions) may be disclosed only where the Bureau of Vital Statistics determines that the applicant has a “direct, tangible, and legitimate interest” in the record, because: (a) the request is from the subject, a member of the subject’s immediate family, the subject’s guardian, or a designated legal representative; (b) a personal or property right of the person whose record is on file is involved; (c) the request is for official purposes of a state, local, or federal government agency; (d) the request is for a statistical or medical research program and prior consent has been obtained from the state registrar; or (e) the request is a certified copy of a court order, specifying the record to be examined. See Utah Code § 26-2-22(2). In addition, a vital record that is not a birth or death certificate will be available to the public if 75 years or more have passed since the date of the event on which the record is based. See id. § 26-2-22(4)(c).

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  • Vermont

    Records of Vermont births, deaths, marriages, civil unions, and divorces dating from 2012 and earlier, with a few exceptions including foreign-born births, are available from the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration. At this time, pursuant to 18 V.S.A. § 5002, there are no restrictions on public access to Vermont vital records.

    New requirements for the safety and security of birth and death certificates went into effect on July 1, 2019. Now, only family members, legal guardians, and certain court-appointed parties or their legal representatives can apply for a certified copy of a birth or death certificate, as explained here: For death certificates, a funeral home or crematorium may apply for a certified copy. Nothing has changed regarding ordering copies of marriage, civil union, divorce, or dissolution certificates. 18 V.S.A. § 5002.


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  • Virginia

    “Vital records” are defined as “certificates or reports of births, deaths, fetal deaths, adoptions, marriages, divorces or annulments and amendment data related thereto.”  Va. Code Ann. § 32.1-249.  This information is subject to disclosure in accordance with Va. Code Ann. § 32.1-271, which specifies permissible disclosure including those allowed after the passage of defined time periods (100 years from birth or 25 years after death, marriage, divorce or annulment), for valid and substantial research purposes and or when a grandparent has demonstrated a need to access a grandchild’s records. Certified copies of vital records are obtained pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 32.1-272.

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  • Washington

    Access to birth, death and marriage certificates changed significantly as of January 1, 2021. These documents are no longer generally accessible. Instead, only the subject of the record or those with certain qualifying relationships can obtain the certificates. The public will have access to “short form” death certificates that do not contain cause or manner of death information. Vital statistics may be made available for research purposes only upon entry of a data sharing agreement with the Department of Health. See generally RCW 42.56.365; RCW 70.58A.520.

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  • West Virginia

    Birth and death certificates are governed by West Virginia Code section 16-5-27 (b), which provides that:

    [I]t shall be unlawful for any person to permit inspection of, or to disclose, confidential information contained in vital records or reports, or to copy or issue a copy of all or part of any vital record or report unless authorized by this article, by legislative rule or by order of a court of competent jurisdiction: Provided, That nothing in this article prohibits the release of information or data that would not identify any person named in a vital record or report.

    Legislative rules of the West Virginia Department of Health narrowly circumscribe vital statistics information that may be disclosed to the public. See, W. Va. R. § 64-32-14 (Disclosure and Protection of Integrity of Vital Records). The State Registrar is prohibited from "providing listings of names or addresses from vital records to the general public for private use or distribution or commercial firms or agencies for commercial or business use." Id. at § 64-32-14.1.g. The rules provide for disclosure of some information that does not identify individuals; a written request must be made therefore that complies with the requirements of W. Va. R. § 64-32-14.2. The rules may be accessed online at:

    Documentation of marriages and divorces do not fall within any exemption and should be disclosed upon request.

    No West Virginia statutory law mentions limits the disclosure of records relating to infectious disease and health epidemics. However, exemption 2 of FOIA---  section 29B-1-4(a)(2), relating to information of a personal nature such as that kept in a personal, medical or similar file” --- could be asserted by government bodies in an effort to withhold information relating to infectious disease and health epidemics. Exemption 2 would apply only to medical records naming specific individuals. Arguably such records should be disclosed after redaction of information identifying individuals suffering from an epidemic-related disease. If an infectious disease or health epidemic was caused by terrorist activity, records relating to such an event may be claimed exempt under exemptions 11 through 16,  section 29B-1-4(a)(11)-(16) and/or  section 29B-1-4(c). Those exemptions have not been the subject of any public discussion or litigation since their enactment in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Virginia.

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  • Wisconsin

    Absent court order, only a “person with a direct and tangible interest in a vital record” is entitled to full disclosure, or a certified copy, of vital records. Wis. Stat. § 69.20(1).  Information in vital statistics are open to inspection, but not copying, under the general open records balancing test, with certain exceptions:

    1. Information which is collected for statistical purposes only may not be disclosed, except to the subject of the information. Wis. Stat. § 69.20(2)(a).
    2. Information concerning the birth of babies to mothers who were at any time between conception and delivery not married, Wis. Stat. § 69.20(2)(b), subject to very narrow exceptions. Wis. Stat. § 69.20(1).
    3. Certified copies are limited to persons with a direct and tangible interest in the record. Wis. Stat. § 69.21(1)(a)(2)(a). Subject to the exceptions stated in 1., any person may obtain an uncertified copy. Wis. Stat. § 69.21(2).
    4. Reports of induced abortions are to be kept anonymous and may not reveal the identity of any patient or health care provider. Wis. Stat. § 69.186(2).

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