Still recuperating but luckily I have another guest writer to tap for you. The lovely and brilliant Julianna Ormsby of the Nevada Women’s Lobby has graciously offered to give some insight into the circus called the Nevada Legislature currently in its last throes up in Carson City. (Unless they call a special session after the final day on June 4, that is.)
Honestly, I had no idea about this bill but now I’m pissed. I have a feeling most of you will be, too. I don’t even know how bills like this can still be drafted in 2007. Perhaps now’s a good time to remind you that every legislator’s contact info is conveniently posted on the Nevada Legislature website. I’m just saying.
Ladies, dust off your scarlet letters … Senate Bill 67 is coming to town
If Nevada State Sen. Warren Hardy and supporters have their way, there will soon be a putative fathers’ registry in Nevada. What is a putative fathers’ registry, you ask, and why should you care?
Supporters of putative fathers’ registries favor this bill because they say the registry can protect fathers’ rights and assist in the adoptive process. By being able to access putative father information online, the idea is that the adoption process, which can be protracted, will speed up if all legal parties can be notified in an expedient fashion. This may not sound like such a bad idea, until you see what the registry looks like. Putative fathers’ registries are invasive repositories of women’s personal information that do not require the woman’s consent. Most states require that a man register after each sexual encounter “just in case” the union results in a pregnancy. The man is asked to provide his name, Social Security Number, and current residential address and phone number, as much information as is known about the mother (including the complete name of the mother and her maiden name); the mother’s most recent address, her Social Security Number (if known) and the name, sex, and birth date of the child, or estimated delivery date if the child has not yet been born.
Currently, 27 states have enacted legislation that allow for a putative fathers’ registry. Access to the registry varies state by state; some states have restricted access to certain state agencies and others who have an interest, such as adoption agencies, mothers, putative fathers, and attorneys; others allow individual users to sign up for access to the putative fathers registry. For many of those states who allow individual users to sign up, the user simply has to indicate that they have an interest in performing a search; there is no threat of legal action for someone who does not have a legitimate interest. Nevada’s SB 67 does require the man who registers as a putative father to sign his registry form under penalty of perjury. However, it is unclear in the proposed legislation whether someone who accesses the registry and does not have a vested interest would be subject to criminal charges. Imagine the unintended consequences – a registry may have restricted access now but could be revisited in a future legislative session. Because so many agencies and individuals could have access, how is the information contained in the registry protected? It’s a putative fathers registry now, but could easily be used for other purposes. Once you start collecting this type of information, it’s not a stretch to imagine what other types of agencies and individuals would want access.
Men usually have several options for registering; they can sign up in person, by mail, or online. After a man registers, who is verifying that, in fact, sexual intercourse took place between the registrant and the woman? Will the woman be notified that her name and personal identifying information has been added to this registry? The opportunity for misinformation and harm is simply too great.
In Nevada, this bill was recently voted out of the Senate Finance committee, and then passed 19-2 by the Senate. It is now headed to the Assembly. If you don’t want to see a putative fathers’ registry in your state, contact your legislators now and tell them that you do not support the state’s collection of women’s personal information. To access the bill text and more information on the proposed Nevada putative fathers’ registry, go to http://www.leg.state.nv.us/74th/Reports/history.cfm?ID=165.