Last month I gave a paper on Open Records at a conference. I also submitted a proposal to another conference to be held next spring. It's all by way of trying to think through the issues here.
One of the things that struck me came during lunch after I had given my paper. Someone at lunch asked me why it was important to have the original birth certificate. Part of me wanted to stick with equal rights.
But I always want to explain things. Motivate them. And I do feel something more than a mere concern for equality. There is something deeply distressing about not having the information on that form.
Of course, the birth certificate is not really enough. But it's something. And it does feel like the only thing I'm entitled to fight for. The rest is nice. But what I'm owed by the government is that equal treatment.
The reason I fight for it, though, is that without even that barest piece of information, something is missing, something is incomplete.
Those who oppose Open Records chalk it up to curiosity. And the reason for doing so is obvious. Why should our curiosity be satisfied at the cost of someone else's right to privacy. If the opponents to Open Records can win that rhetorical point, the battle is over. If it's curiosity versus rights, curiosity will lose every time.
But it's not curiosity. It is much more than that. This is part of my story. It's a small piece of a bigger puzzle. This is part of who I am. It's not idle curiosity versus privacy. It is part of my dignity and identity as a human being. Why should someone be able to hold that from me?
I do think some people understand. But even people who aren't opposed to Open Records don't always seem to get why this is a big deal. I don't really know how to explain it to them.
It's my identity. It's important.
Now to convince the rest of the world.