Monday, October 17, 2016

Unsealed Initiative's Bill of Adoptee Rights Amended in the 2015 Legislative session

by Joyce Bahr

Just now the exact same amended bill was introduced again by Assemblymember David Weprin. He is telling us he may make some amendments to this bill but, we are aware he may not want to rock the boat with any such changes He may be fearful any change could prevent the bill from passing again in the assembly.  After many years of serious lobbying by UI's lobby team members regret our bill was amended, making it no longer a Bill of Rights in the 2015 legislative session. Our bill of rights gave all adult adoptees the right to a copy of their original birth certificate with a contact preference option for birth parents. A law on the books in several other states for several years with no problems.This amended bill which we opposed passed in the assembly in 2015 and 2016 but luckily, never made it to the floor for a vote in the senate.  This legislation includes not only a lousy redaction which allows a birth parent to remove his or her name from the original birth certificate but, gives judges decision making authority in releasing an original birth certificate to an adoptee. This is unfair, outdated and discriminatory legislation. Adoptees who are tax paying citizens  should have the same right as non adopted persons in accessing a copy of  their own birth certificate. How could we support this bad legislation?

Assembly sponsor David Weprin was hopeful in the 2015 session when the new Speaker Carl Heastie, a democrat from the Bronx, announced all bills with high numbers of sponsors would go to the floor for a vote. However, We were let down again as we saw Mr. Heastie's favorite bills go to the floor but, not ours. We were hopeful until two surrogate court judges showed up at our Assembly Health Committee Hearing in 2014 to testify against our bill. Now why on earth would any judge testify against us? Was it they were prompted by the Chair of the powerful and influential Judiciary Committee Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, a democrat from Brooklyn? If there ever was a promise of confidentiality, where is it?

It's been a number of years since high courts in Tennessee (1997) and Oregon  (1999) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (2000) decided to uphold new open records laws in these states. Opponents were unable to present even one written proof of confidentiality or a right to privacy for birth parents because there was none.

Adoptees and birth parents can legally search because there is no right to privacy. 

With objection not only from the powerful Chair of Assembly Judiciary Helene Weinstein but, Senator Kemp Hannon, Chair of Senate Health Committee one may ask why we are not giving up on succeeding with passage of our Bill of Rights? Why we are standing strong for a new law fair and consistent to all? The truth of the matter is we have no other choice, when we look at other states and see how long their new laws have been on the books with no change. There have been no  further lobby efforts by advocates except in Oregon.

We believe in the inalienable right to know for all adult adoptees and we won't give up!