House committee votes to close 50-year-old marriage license applications

By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

Seeking to protect senior citizens from identity theft, a Colorado House committee voted unanimously Wednesday to close marriage and civil union license applications that now become public records after 50 years.

The licenses themselves, which contain limited information, would still be available and searchable on some county websites under HB 14-1073, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon of Denver.

Rep. Dan Pabon

Rep. Dan Pabon

No longer accessible would be half-century-old and older marriage license applications, which may include someone’s personal information such as a Social Security number, date of birth and mother’s maiden name. The applications would be available only to “a person in interest” such as an immediate family member.

“Right now the application with all that sensitive data is open to anybody,” said Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson, who testified in favor of the bill. She told members of the House Finance Committee that historians and other researchers usually are interested in seeing marriage and civil union licenses, not the applications.

HB 14-1073, which advanced on an 11-0 vote, also would allow county clerks to accept a verification of death document instead of a death certificate to transfer real property in certain instances. Johnson said this too is an effort to curb the public release of sensitive personal information such as cause of death.

Death certificates typically are not public records in Colorado until someone has been dead for 75 years, unless a certificate is recorded with a county clerk as part of a property transaction. “Then it becomes a public record,” Johnson said. “That’s the issue.”

Follow the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Twitter @CoFOIC. Like CFOIC’s Facebook page. Visit CFOIC’s legislature page to track bills in the General Assembly that could affect the flow or availability of information in Colorado.

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