Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 32.1. Health
Chapter 7. Vital Records

§ 32.1-271. Disclosure of information in records; when unlawful; when permitted; proceeding to compel disclosure; when certain records made public.

A. To protect the integrity of vital records and to ensure the efficient and proper administration of the system of vital records, it is unlawful, notwithstanding the provisions of §§ 2.2-3700 through 2.2-3714, for any person to permit inspection of or to disclose information contained in vital records or to copy or issue a copy of all or part of any such vital records except as authorized by this section or regulation of the Board or when so ordered by a court of the Commonwealth.

B. Data contained in vital records may be disclosed for valid and substantial research purposes in accordance with the regulations of the Board.

C. Any person aggrieved by a decision of a county or city registrar may appeal to the State Registrar. If the State Registrar denies disclosure of information or inspection of or copying of vital records, such person may petition the court of the county or city in which he resides if he resides in the Commonwealth or in which the recorded event occurred or the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond, Division I, for an order compelling disclosure, inspection or copying of such vital record. The State Registrar or his authorized representative may appear and testify in such proceeding.

D. When 100 years have elapsed after the date of birth, or 25 years have elapsed after the date of death, marriage, divorce, or annulment the records of these events in the custody of the State Registrar shall, unless precluded from release by statute or court order, or at law-enforcement request, become public information and be made available in accordance with regulations that shall provide for the continued safekeeping of the records. All records that are public information on July 1, 1983, shall continue to be public information. Original records in the custody of the State Registrar that become public information shall be turned over to the Library of Virginia for safekeeping and for public access consistent with other state archival records, subject to the State Registrar and the Library of Virginia entering into a memorandum of understanding to arrange for continued prompt access by the State Registrar to original records for purposes of amendments to those records or other working purposes. The State Registrar's office may retain copies thereof for its own administrative and disclosure purposes.

E. The State Registrar or the city or county registrar shall disclose data about or issue a certified copy of a birth certificate of a child to the grandparent of the child upon the written request of the grandparent when the grandparent has demonstrated to the State Registrar evidence of need, as prescribed by Board regulation, for the data or birth certificate.

F. The State Registrar or the city or county registrar shall issue a certified copy of a death certificate to the grandchild or great-grandchild of a decedent in accordance with procedures prescribed by the Board in regulation.

G. The State Registrar or the city or county registrar shall disclose data about or issue a certified copy of a death certificate to a nonprofit organ, eye or tissue procurement organization that is a member of the Virginia Transplant Council for the purpose of determining the suitability of organs, eyes and tissues for donation, as prescribed by the Board in regulations. Such regulations shall ensure that the information disclosed includes the cause of death and any other medical information necessary to determine the suitability of the organs, eyes, and tissues for donation.

H. The State Registrar shall seek to enter into a long-term contract with a private company experienced in maintaining genealogical research databases to create, maintain, and update such an online index at no direct cost to the Commonwealth, in exchange for allowing the private company to also provide such index to its subscribers and customers. The online index shall be designed and constructed to have the capability of allowing birth, marriage, divorce, and death entries on the index to be linked to a digital image of the underlying original birth, marriage, divorce, or death record once any such underlying record has become public information, and the index shall be designed to allow the Library of Virginia to create and activate such links to digital images of the original records. Any social security numbers appearing on original birth, marriage, divorce, or death records shall be redacted from the digital images provided to the public in the manner provided by law, which may include bulk redaction of social security fields from the images via automated methods.

Following contract implementation, the State Registrar shall maintain a publicly available online vital records index or indexes, consisting at a minimum of name, date, and county or city of occurrence for births (naming the child), marriages (naming the spouses), divorces (naming the parties to the divorce), and deaths (naming the decedent), which vital records index information, except as otherwise precluded from release by statute, court order, or law-enforcement request, shall be public information from the time of its receipt by the State Registrar and shall be accessible on the State Registrar's website and on or through the Library of Virginia website.

Code 1950, § 32-353.26; 1960, c. 451; 1979, c. 711; 1983, c. 240; 1984, c. 189; 1985, c. 313; 2005, c. 60; 2009, c. 505; 2011, c. 109; 2012, cc. 16, 356; 2020, c. 900.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.