State Rep. DebraLee Hovey of Monroe has spoken out in favor of a bill she is cosponsoring to protect the privacy of Sandy Hook families and others following the death of a child.
The legislation, HB 5733, would allow officials to restrict access to the death certificates of children when it is likely to cause undue hardship for the family of the child. Current law allows any adult the ability to purchase a copy of the death certificate of any resident from their municipality’s town clerk.
Town clerk inundated with media inquiries
The bill was prompted by Newtown Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia being inundated with media inquiries following the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, jeopardizing families’ privacy and capitalizing on their grief.
“This legislation will both respect and protect the privacy of families who have suffered the unimaginable loss of a child,” Hovey said. “During tragic circumstances it is imperative we have laws that show empathy for those affected while at the same time preventing unscrupulous individuals from exploiting, or profiting from, their grief. It’s the right thing to do.”
Hovey, whose district includes a part of Newtown, has introduced the bill with the two other state representatives whose districts include Newtown — Dan Carter and Mitch Bolinsky.
Aurelia said since the Sandy Hook shooting, “I have witnessed an extreme invasion of privacy of victims’ families at the most inappropriate times. I support the introduction of this bill, and I continue to advocate for even tighter restrictions on all public death records, which I believe empower identity thieves and disclose too much detail when offered freely.”
‘Painful media circus’
According to Carter, “We must protect the privacy of Sandy Hook victims whose death certificates contain information that will only fuel the painful media circus in Newtown,” Rep. Carter said. “Not only would this proposal prevent journalists from abusing the information on death certificates, such as the location of gravesites, but would reduce the threat of identity theft.”
Bolinsky said in limiting access to long-form death certificates, “we can help shield families and victims from exploitation in cases such as the Sandy Hook massacre, where children died under uniquely tragic circumstances. In addition to respectful privacy protection, this bill would act as an effective deterrent for identity theft, while still allowing for appropriate public disclosure, and I urge my colleagues in the Public Health Committee to pass it.”
Bolinsky and Carter as well as Aurelia, the town clerk, have testified before the legislature’s Public Health Committee regarding the legislation.