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Birth Certificates Should Identify Paternity, Not "Parentage"

March 24, 2021 5:24 AM | Jim Hochberg (Administrator)

The Hawaii Legislature is once again aiming to set up a task force to do the Legislature’s own duty with a very controversial proposal. House Bill 1096, House Draft 2, is the vehicle our elected legislators are proposing to use to change “paternity” to “parentage” on birth records.

The purpose of birth certificates is to identify the biological participants in the creation of the baby. This change will instead identify on the birth certificate the people who plan to raise the child after it is born. Sometimes, those are not the same, as in step-parenting, adoption, guardianship and hanai parenting. It is most logically always the case with same-sex parenting.

This task force ploy not only serves as a political prophylactic for those we elect to serve as lawmakers, but it completely and totally hides that work behind a cloak of secrecy created by an additional layer of opaque cover in the state Department of Health, overseeing the actual work done by private individuals. The Legislature needs to do this work in public.

In the face of public demand for government transparency, HB 1096, HD2, runs in the opposite direction on a very controversial subject. Worse yet, the text of the bill clearly indicates the Legislature has already made the policy decision in back-room negotiations. The task force is only asked to “recommend amendments to the Hawaii Revised Statutes to update existing parentage laws that reflect outdated, cisheteronormative concepts of families, parenthood, and parental rights.”

Having decided the laws of our state need to be changed in this regard, the Legislature should not pass off the responsibility to ideologues who agree with the premise. Legislative hearings can give the Legislature the approval of the citizens to go forward with the policy change. Voters have elected a total of 76 legislators from various districts to come together and debate issues related to every change proposed to our laws, hopefully listening to the voice of those who participate. The Legislature should not protect the next election with a process that gives political protection of “task force recommendations.”

The Legislature should not change “paternity” to “parentage” on birth certificates because birth certificates are intended to identify the biological contributors to the zygote, which was born the child after nine months. Birth certificates have to do with biology, not awarding hereditary status to a person with no biological connection to the child.

If participation in some program (e.g., Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Daughters of the American Revolution, etc.) is determined by bloodline linkage to the program’s purpose, this bill would rob from every child the opportunities to which he and she should be entitled. Replacing paternity with parentage in the law does violence to the family history of people when their birth certificate does not reflect the biological origins of that person. In addition, this proposal removes the excluded biological participant (usually the dad?). Birth records must reflect the paternity, not parentage, of the child — for the keiki!

More egregious than legislative dereliction of duty is the telling selection of one organization to participate. One of the identified participants in this task force would be “a representative of AF3IRM Hawaii.” This is not a Hawaii organization, but a transnational organization not even authorized by the state of Hawaii to engage in business here.

Why is the change championed by AF3IRM a bad idea for Hawaii? The webpage for AF3IRM indicates it is actually an international organization with a political agenda that includes changing birth record data on paternity to parentage data. The Legislature should not appoint ideologues supporting this public policy change, but rather, neutral, honest and unbiased individuals.

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Printed in the Hawaii Star Advertiser on March 23, 2021

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