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Adoptee Civil Rights and “Social Culture” by Shea Grimm

April 22, 2015 News 4 Comments

BN 1Efforts in various states to unseal OBCs has been the topic of several conversations recently  on the Bastard Nation  Facebook page.  Of particular interest are the campaigns in New York and Texas, where clean bills are currently in the hopper. Though advocates in both states say they want unrestricted access, they refuse to make a  public pledge to kill their own bills if they are amended to restricted access. They justify this reluctance by flying a states’ rights defense claiming that only advocates from each state have a right to make decisions on the strength of their bills, while at the same time acknowledging that adoptee rights is a national and international movement. They know that what happens in one jurisdiction  influences what happens in another.

Shea Grimm, a co-founder of Bastard Nation and our former Legislative Chair has taken their odd argument to task on FB posting some concise  critical comments on this isolationist, defeatist strategy.” Is a civil right only viable within a cultural comfort zone,  or does it apply to all bastards no matter geography? Why, are some organizations afraid to stand up for what they claim to believe–and want?  Why does much of the movement remain exclusionary when the stated goal is inclusion?

Marley Greiner, Exe, Chair, Bastard Nation

Shea writes:

Continuing our discussions on rights rhetoric being used in individual state efforts to promote adoptee access laws that have nothing to do with rights and everything to do with search, reunion, and individual egos, we come to the remarkable situations of TX and NY.

Both of these states presently have unconditional access bills (some weirdness with the CPF in Texas aside and the subject of a separate post). Two of the organizations promoting these bills (STAR and NYAE in TX and NY respectively) have declined to take a pledge to kill the bills should they be amended with contact or disclosure vetoes. These two state organizations have a history of supporting veto and/or redaction legislation. These organizations are publicizing an “adoptee rights” platform and….here’s where it gets very weird…both organizations have made noises to the effect that adoptee access is a states’ rights issue and only individuals in their respective states should have a determinative say in whether veto legislation is an acceptable compromise.

It’s a rather remarkable hypocrisy. Can you imagine if MLK during the Civil Rights movement declared that what happened in each state was ultimately up to the “social culture” in that state? Should gay rights advocates settle for less than their full equal protection and due process under the law in Kentucky because “social culture”? Isn’t this what the civil war was all about?

Here’s the deal. If you’re going to say that adoptee access is a “civil rights” issue, you have forever lost the ability to (at least credibly) argue that everyone outside of your state should stay out of your legislation, or that your state’s “political culture” or “social culture” are relevant to anything. We all know adoptee access to OBCs for now must be fought on a state by state basis as a logistical matter, just as Jim Crow laws and anti gay laws were and continue to be fought on that front. There is no doubt that some states are more “ripe” than others for reform. But when you take up the mantle of civil rights for adoptees, STFU about states’ rights.

If you insist on taking the narrow view that only people within your state can or should have a say, don’t accept money from those outside your state. Don’t you dare lobby or cheerlead veto bills in other states. And don’t even think about using the phrase “adoptee rights” to describe what you’re doing.

Shea GrimmShea Grimm is a lawyer and reunited adoptee of mixed Native ancestry currently living in Hawai’i.  She is a co-founder of Bastard Nation.

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

    • Mary Cannon says:

      Your discussion on ‘rights rhetoric’ is outdated, going no where, and a detriment to adoption reform. Your comparison with MLK lacks compassion and therefore, is not a sale to Texas or NY. Rather that attack the efforts of these States efforts to move forward, perhaps direct attention on a 101 refresher course in 101 law.

  1. maddogmarley says:

    Isn’t your arm getting tired flogging your dead horse? Rights is never outdated. Go dirty your own dog box, not ours.

  2. Shea says:

    How can there be anything “outdated” about constitutional rights?

    The reason Bastard Nation and true adoptee rights activists never have a conflict is because when you accept nothing less than equality, all the decisions become easy. Our mission is clear and unambiguous and when we propose and fight for our bill, we have relationships with our sponsors who understand and agree with us.

    By the way since I wrote this, as anticipated, the New York bill was amended so badly than even its in-state proponents withdrew their support, and the TX bill failed.

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