Some More Clarity on Hawaiian Birth Certificates

July 17, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

I’m getting the usual truckloads of mail attacking my piece on the slow mainstreaming of Birtherism, some of it attacking Janice Okubo of the Hawaii Department of Health for saying that the readily-available Certification of Live Birth confirms that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. I’ll just quote Orly Taitz’s latest lawsuit for the counterargument.

Hawaiian statute 338 allows foreign born children of Hawaiian residents to obtain Hawaiian birth certificates, that those birth certificates can be obtained based on a statement of one relative only without any corroborating evidence from the hospital; that “late birth certificates” (i.e. non-contemporaneously, post-facto, in two words “potentially fabricated”) can lawfully, under this statute, be obtained at any time later in life.

This is, unsurprisingly, totally wrong. Here’s the relevant section of Hawaiian law.

[§338-17.8]  Certificates for children born out of State. (a)  Upon application of an adult or the legal parents of a minor child, the director of health shall issue a birth certificate for such adult or minor, provided that proof has been submitted to the director of health that the legal parents of such individual while living without the Territory or State of Hawaii had declared the Territory or State of Hawaii as their legal residence for at least one year immediately preceding the birth or adoption of such child.

(b)  Proof of legal residency shall be submitted to the director of health in any manner that the director shall deem appropriate.  The director of health may also adopt any rules pursuant to chapter 91 that he or she may deem necessary or proper to prevent fraudulent applications for birth certificates and to require any further information or proof of events necessary for completion of a birth certificate.

(c)  The fee for each application for registration shall be established by rule adopted pursuant to chapter 91. [L 1982, c 182, §1]

First, who applies for a birth certificate? “An adult or the legal parents of a minor child.” Taitz, who doesn’t understand the most basic legalese, thinks that would allow “one relative” to apply for a child’s birth certificate. In fact, only the legal parents of a child—in this case, Barack Obama Sr. and Stanley Ann Dunham—can apply for a birth certificate. The “adult” in this statute is a grown man or woman applying for a birth certificate, who must provide his or her own proof that his parents were legal residents of Hawaii.

Second, there’s an enumeration of the state’s process for verifying this; the director of health can “require any further information or proof of events” to weed out fraud.

Keep in mind, because Obama was born in Hawaii, this rule didn’t even apply to him. But a popular Birther theory is that Obama’s grandparents covered up for Obama’s parents by applying for a birth certificate and sneaking it past the authorities. As Okubo said yesterday, these people will say anything, no matter how implausible.

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