'Birther' measure signed into law
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday signed into law the so-called "birther" bill that is intended to limit the number of requests for President Obama's Hawai'i birth certificate.
Hawai'i state officials receive dozens of requests for Obama's birth certificate each month from people who believe he is not a natural-born U.S. citizen and thus not eligible to be president.
The new law, Act 100, allows state agencies a limited exemption from Freedom of Information requirements when duplicative requests for information are made by the same person. Although the law covers all agencies, the measure targets people who repeatedly request a copy of Obama's Hawai'i birth certificate.
The requests are being made to the state Department of Health, which keeps the birth certificates.
In testimony before the Legislature in February, DOH Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said her department receives about 50 e-mail inquiries a month for Obama's birth certificate, primarily from the same four to six people.
"The time and state resources it takes to respond to these often convoluted inquiries are considerable," she testified.
Fukino has repeatedly vouched for the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate.
State law limits access to birth certificates to those who have "direct and tangible interest." This would include the person named in the record, the spouse, parent, descendant or personal representative; someone involved in marital, parental or death litigation; and official agency or organization representatives, including the health director.
State Sen. Will Espero, D-20th ('Ewa Beach, Waipahu), introduced the measure at the request of the Lingle administration. Espero said he wanted to introduce a bill that would have allowed limited access to birth records, but the DOH said it couldn't support such a measure.
Espero said yesterday the new law will take some pressure off the DOH staff, but he said it will not end the birther controversy .
"It will certainly provide some relief and help that Department of Health staff (needs), although I don't think it will by any means put an end to the birther issue," Espero said. "There are people out there, and mostly from the Mainland, who are just rabid about this and I don't think anything we provide or give them will convince them otherwise."
Espero said he has spoken with birthers and has appeared on conservative talk radio shows. "I tell them that the Republican administration (of Lingle) has gone on record as saying that (Obama) is a son of Hawai'i, but they still don't believe us," he said.