Michael Butler, candidate for St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds, wants to make marriage records, including their Social Security Numbers, available online to the general public. What has caused Butler to make such an unfortunate campaign pledge that would require violating Missouri law?
Butler may not know that many Marriage Applications, and occasionally Marriage Licenses, contain Social Security Numbers. The use of Social Security Numbers during the Marriage License process is regulated by State law, not individual Recorders. As a state representative, if Butler wanted to change that law, he had every opportunity to try but did not.
Butler may not know that in the St. Louis City Recorder’s office, a Marriage Application, any attachments such as parental consent Affidavits, and the Marriage License, are all digitally scanned and indexed together by License Number and without redaction of Social Security Numbers. Currently 1940something to Present are scanned, as well as 120,000+ marriage records from 19th Century.
Butler may not know that State law requires redaction of the Social Security Number from the marriage record before a copy can be provided to a customer. That cannot happen if the customer is making the copy off the internet. Again, as a state representative, if Butler wanted to change that law, he had every opportunity to try but did not.
Butler may not know that in Missouri both Marriage Applications and Marriage Licenses are public records accessible by anyone. They are not similar to Birth and Death records where access is restricted to the party named on the record or immediate family. If the City’s marriage records are available online, then anyone will have access to Social Security Numbers and the Recorder doing so will have violated State law.
Another possibility is that Butler is getting very bad campaign advice from one or more persons associated with the defeated April 4, 2017 Prop A campaign funded by Rex Sinquefield.
Spokespersons for the Prop A campaign, including State Senator Jamilah Nasheed, now a supporter of Butler, repeatedly gave misinformation in 2017 that the Recorder was not needed to issue Marriage Licenses. They said the State Health Department’s Vital Records Bureau could do it.
The State’s Vital Records Bureau does not issue Marriage Licenses. It does not sell Marriage License copies. It maintains data, a statewide Marriage Registry for marriages 1948 to Present. For a fee by mail, the State will issue a statement with the names of both spouses, date of marriage and county where the marriage was recorded. It is not a Marriage License copy, let alone a Certified Copy with a raised seal used as legal proof of a ceremony. The State’s Vital Records web page clearly states, “A certified copy of the original marriage license may be obtained by contacting the Recorder of Deeds in the county where the license was obtained.”
Butler also wants you to pay more and wait longer for Birth and Death Certificate copies by using VitalChek. It’s possible that he saw VitalChek offering copies of Marriage Licenses from other states, which are processed at the county of origin, and mistook that as digital delivery available for Missouri counties, including City of St. Louis. He keeps referring to Marriage Licenses as Vital Records, as did Nasheed during the Prop A campaign, which the State Health Department controls. My money is on he doesn’t understand that Birth and Death Records are State records and Marriage Licenses are County records, including marriage records issued and maintained by the City Recorder.
You don’t have to go to City Hall to purchase a copy of a marriage record. I don’t know where Butler comes up with this nonsense. You can order a copy of a St. Louis City issued Marriage License and pay for it online with a credit card. It’s the same online order service St. Louis County uses, as well as many other counties.
You don’t have to come to City Hall to research many marriage records. The St. Louis City Recorder provides Marriage License indexing searchable online for free.
Another important issue, Butler’s pledge for online copies of marriage records would be a dramatic change in Recorder policy related to the office’s response to Missouri’s Safe At Home program for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, human trafficking, or stalking. Online access to the most recent forty years of Marriage License indexing has been restricted by the current Recorder to avoid conflicts with the program and protect victims.
St. Louis County does not offer any Marriage Index searches online yet.
You can also purchase copies of Marriage Applications and License by mail. It’s sent out same day received. Counter service for walk-in copy customers takes a few minutes.
— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman
Disclaimer: I have worked at the City Recorder of Deeds for a very long time, before I was elected a committeewoman. My job is not dependent on my politics. My ward organization has not endorsed in the Recorder’s race yet (6/17/2018). This post was written without consultation with my supervisors or the Recorder. I represent myself here and no one else.