When Is a Person Not a Person: The Drive to Deny Birth Certificates

When is a person determined to be a non-person? When they’re the born-in-the-USA child of non-legal immigrants? When they’re born to a single mother? When they are the result of a rape? When they’re transgendered? When they’re a fetus?

The far right-wing has come up with a new way to make people they don’t like into legal non-persons. Most of the cases involve the children of people they don’t like, but they are now fighting to deny amended birth certificates to others who don’t fall into the straight, white, European, Christian model they have decided is “normal.”

A person without a birth certificate is a non-person, at least in the eyes of the law.

  1. If you have no birth certificate, the list of what you cannot do includes:
  2. Get a Social Security card
  3. Get a passport
  4. Get a driver’s license
  5. Vote
  6. Enroll in school

Let’s start with a bill that blessedly died in committee this week in the Illinois state legislature.
HB6064, co-sponsored by Rep. John Cavaletto (R-107th Dist.) and Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-50th Dist.), would have denied a birth certificate to any child born to a single mother who failed to name a biological father. She either names the Baby Daddy or indicates someone in her family who is willing to take financial responsibility for her child. Only then would a birth certificate be issued.

Let that sink in for a moment.

If she refuses to name the biological father of her offspring for whatever reason or if no one in her family will step up, her son or daughter becomes a non-person. The child has done nothing except be born. Yet they are legally a nobody. They cannot for the rest of their lives legally go to school, get a job, open a bank account, get a credit card, get a car loan or a mortgage, vote, obtain a driver’s license, join the military, go to college, get an insurance policy, seek non-emergency medical care, and so many other things that we “legal persons” can do because we have a birth certificate. Hell, they probably can’t even get a death certificate when they die, since they were never officially considered born.

When one considers that the GOP plan for the nation includes no abortion and limited access to contraceptives, the fact that they would deny a newborn legal personhood is nauseating. It’s even more nauseating when one considers that a woman who becomes pregnant with a rapist’s child, particularly if the pregnancy resulted from a gang rape, often does not know who the biological father is. If she’s young, alone, estranged from her family, or has no close family, her child is sentenced to non-personhood by the right wing.

Apparently this is the new Republican plan to create a permanent underclass with no legal standing, no social standing, and no voice in their community or country.

The good news is that on Friday, Rep. Cavaletto arranged to kill the bill by filing a motion to table it in committee. Rep. Wheeler withdrew his co-sponsorship. Mounting outrage on social media and the internet forced them to drop the proposal and insure it would not come up for discussion, let alone a vote, at least for this year.

This is not the first time the Illinois House has considered a bill of this nature. Last year a female Republican legislator spoke regarding a bill that would have restored some subsidies which were lost due to the legislative budget impasse. In a slut-shaming speech on the floor of the state house, Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-42nd Dist.) said, “We can all agree that we only want people to have this [child care assistance for low-income individuals] if they truly deserve it.”

Ah! The “truly deserving” conundrum, a right-wing favorite. Of course, by “truly deserving,” they mean white suburban people who have just had a bit of temporary financial embarrassment. They never mean people of color in the severely-economically depressed inner city who have no access to good jobs, education, and decent transportation, and who have been sentenced to a lifetime of poverty by the political and economic power brokers.

And you thought this was a “Christian” nation! Yes, someone help me out here, please point out in which of the four gospels Jesus says, “Thou shalt only help the truly deserving, and here’s how you’ll know who they are.”

Apparently, the uber-conservatives believe Jesus said something more along the lines of “Screweth the poor. They are just lazy takers.”

As a side note, Republi-Rep. Jeannie did, however, have pity on those poor, poor school children of Illinois. As a co-sponsor of HB0165 last year, she helped make sure that “…students in the public schools [are allowed] to voluntarily engage in individually initiated, non-disruptive prayer, provides that such praying may take place at any time during the school day.”

You know, these students are “truly deserving.” They’re Christians. Apparently, it’s okay to ignore Jesus’ statement that one should only pray in private and not make a big self-righteous spectacle of yourself in public. Somehow, I don’t think Miz Jeannie had Muslims or Jews in mind when she helped write that bill, which passed and became law in Illinois on August 20, 2015.

According to the new loving and Christian way of thinking, children who make the horrifying life error of being born to a single mother who cannot or will not name their biological father are not among the truly deserving. Children who were careless enough to be born in the US to parents who have not come into the country via official methods are not truly deserving. They do not deserve a birth certificate, they do not deserve personhood, according to the far right-wing.

Texas is embroiled in a legal battle over the latter after a law suit was filed in federal court on the matter last May. In 2012 and 2013 the Texas Department of State Health Services started telling local registrars not to accept certain identifications issued by Mexican consulates to Mexican citizens who are living and working in the United States. Another favorite right-wing bugaboo, “fraud,” was named as the reason for this punitive directive, leading the federal judge to ask during an October hearing, “Is this such a problem, people obtaining birth certificates they’re not entitled to, that you have to erect this type of barrier to people who are entitled to one?” and further claimed that if not, the state’s rules are “a solution in search of a problem.”

Keep in mind that all those teabaggers and mega-conservatives consider themselves to be Constitutional scholars, despite the fact that many of them barely made it through middle school social studies classes.  The 14th Amendment is pretty clear that anyone born on US soil is a US citizen.  Not that it matters to the anti-brown- people wing nut crowd.

The uber-conservatives also have their panties in a wad over amended birth certificates for transgender people. Transgender activist Stephanie Mott, a columnist for the Huffington Post, has sued the state of Kansas for refusing to issue an amended birth certificate for her as a woman.

A long-standing Kansas regulation permitted transgender people to change the gender notation on their original birth certificates. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, would issue the newly-amended birth certificates as long as the individual had undergone gender confirmation surgery. That all changed when Republican teabagger Sam Brownbeck became the state’s governor in 2012. Suddenly the state decided they would refuse to follow the regulation and to deny all birth certificate amendment requests from transgender people. Kansas is one of only three states in the nation who now deny amended birth certificates to transgendered individuals. Idaho and Tennessee are the other two.

Not to be outdone on the anti-trannie front, in Texas school superintendents in a January referendum voted in a new rule saying that schools must use birth certificates to determine gender of prospective student-athletes in any sports.  Assuming, of course, that they are not the native-born child of non-legal immigrants and actually have a birth certificate from the state of Texas.

Birth certificates matter again due to the influx of proposed new potty/locker room bills requiring that people only use restroom and locker facilities to which they were born, per their birth certificates.  Thus far, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin have such potty and locker room non-parity laws in the works. Supposedly, this will make it so much easier for the jocks to beat some sense into those sissy girlie-boys while coach has his back turned. We all know that jocks are kings.  I’m guessing that the unfortunates without birth certificates will simply have to “hold it” when not at home and to forego that post-workout shower.

Teabaggers and right wingnuts continue to carry on their gutless and ignorant march toward racial and ethnic and gender purity. There’s no better way to do that, in their twisted logic, than turning people into non-people, whether it be by full scale denial of a birth certificate for a new child, or by refusing to update birth certificate information for transgendered men and women.

In other conservative news, the movement continues for a federal “personhood” amendment and for various state “a fetus is a person” laws. Wonder if they’ll start issuing “personhood certificates” upon conception rather than birth certificates upon birth. I’m sure, though, that the “personhood certificates” will only be issued to those who are the “right kind of person” and who are “truly deserving.”

About Indy Annie 54 Articles
Indy Annie is the pen name of Myra Ann Rutledge, a native Hoosier, IU graduate, and writer/blogger who has lived all over the country, as well as overseas. She is currently working on her version of the Great American Novel, when she isn't opining and ranting on American News X and on her personal blog The Lizard Queen Universe.

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