Bastard Nation Letter of Support for Connecticut 977–Restore OBC access to all CT adoptees (Lobby Day April 19, 2017
Bastard Nation | P. O. Box 9959 | Spokane, WA 99209 | Phone 614-641-0294
April 19, 2017
Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization is the largest adoptee civil rights organization in the United States. We support only full unrestricted access for all adopted persons, to their original birth certificates (OBC). We do not support restrictions such as the Affidavit of Non-Disclosure/Disclosure Vetoes (DV), Contact Vetoes (CV), white-outs, or any other form of redaction or restricted and conditional access to a true copy of the original birth certificate.
We are happy to support passage of SB 977, an inclusive that when passed:
restores the right of Original Birth Certificate access to those adopted before October 1,1983. without restriction (currently only those born after that date can access)
permits the release of the OBC to an adoptee’s adult child or grandchild
clarifies that a person born outside of Connecticut, but adopted in Connecticut has the right to information on their birth certificates
contains a genuine confidential voluntary Contact Preference Form which lets a birthparent register a preference regarding contact without abrogating the right of access to the OBC
We urge you to support this bill and pass SB977.
Our letter is divided in three parts (1) general comments regarding sealed records and OBCs, and privacy v anonymity, (2) the consequences of continued sealing of records and (3) a short conclusion.
Privacy/Confidentiality v anonymity in Records Access
Unrestricted OBC access is not a “privacy” or “birthparent confidentiality” issue. In fact, “privacy” and” anonymity” are not synonymous either legally or linguistically.
The passage in 2015 of Public Act 14-133 which restored the right of OBC access to Connecticut adopted persons whose adoptions were finalized before October 1, 2983 shows that the legislature understands the justice in OBC access. Unfortunately 30,000 of the state’s adoptees were left behind in that limited law—their records remaining sealed and available only through court order. SB 977 finishes the job making all Connecticut adoptees subject to the same right of access and due process.
There is no evidence in any state that records were sealed to “protect” the reputation or “privacy” of biological parents who relinquished children for adoption. On the contrary, records were sealed to protect the reputations of “bastard children” and to protect adoptive families from birthparent interference.
Family Courts can and do grant the opening of OBCs and other adoption records request without notice to or input from the birthparent(s). Moreover, courts have ruled that adoption anonymity does not exist. (Doe v Sundquist, et. al., 943 F. Supp. 886, 893-94 (M.D. Tenn. 1996) and Does v. State of Oregon, 164 Or. App. 543, 993 P.2d 833, 834 (1999)). Laws change constantly, and the state, lawyers, social workers, and others were never in a position to promise anonymity in adoption. In fact, in the over 40 years of the adoptee equality battle, not one document has been submitted anywhere that promises or guarantees sealed records and an anonymity “right” to birthparents. Identifying information about surrendering parents often appears in court documents given to adoptive parents who can at any point give that information to the adopted person. (In some states adoptive parents, at the time of adoption finalization, can petition the court to keep the record open.) The names of surrendering parents are published in legal ads. Courts can open “sealed records” for “good cause.” Critically, the OBC is sealed at the time of adoption finalization, not surrender. If a child is not adopted, the record is never sealed. If a child is adopted, but the adoption is overturned or disrupted, the OBC is unsealed.
Legislation needs to catch up with technological reality. We are well into the 21st century. The information superhighway grows wider and longer each day, and adoptees and their birth and adoptive families are riding it, utilizing the Internet, social media, inexpensive and accessible DNA testing services, and a large network of volunteer “search angels” to locate their government-hidden information and histories. Thousands of successful adoption searches happen each year—hundreds in Connecticut alone—making adoption secrecy virtually impossible. The minuscule number of birthparents or so-called “professional experts” who believe that restricted OBC or records access or no access equals adoption anonymity are greatly mistaken. The fact is, nearly all successful searches are done without the OBC and other court documents.
Consequences of Continued Records Sealing
Critically, in this age of heightened security, the government requires all of us to prove our identities and citizenship– a legal paper trail of identity. As a result, adopted persons without an OBC are in danger of losing even more rights than just their OBC access. US-born adoptees report increased problems in obtaining driver’s licenses, passports, professional certifications, Social Security benefits, pensions, and security clearances due to what government bureaucrats refer to as “irregularities” in their amended birth certificates issued by Connecticut and all other states, and are demanding the OBC plus other documents setting out the adoption as proof of citizenship and identity.
A major irregularity is a “late birth certificate“ filed a year or more after the birth of a child. Late filing is caused by various factors: delayed adoption, multiple/disrupted adoption, older child and foster care placement, and bureaucratic slowness. Until recently, states required that children live with their adoptive parent(s) for about a year before the adoption was finalized; thus, a new amended birth certificate was issued “late” According to the US Department of State a “late birth certificate” may only be accepted for passport application if it lists the documentation used to create it and is signed by the attending physician or midwife, or, lists an affidavit signed by the parents, or shows early public records indicating the birth. Obviously, in the case of sealed records adoption, this requirement is impossible to meet. Reportedly, some states are now backdating the filing date of amended birth certificates to “keep up” with federal requirements; thus, creating an even larger legal fiction regarding adoptees’ births than now exists. Other “irregularities” include age discrepancies between parents and child, missing information, and irregular signatures (ex: typed rather than signed). This problem will grow with the increase in adoption of older children from foster care, adoptions by same sex couples, Real lD, and other government “security” requirements.
Rights are for all, not some. Clearly Connecticut law discriminates against the state’s adoptees with its tier-access timeframe based on date of birth and/or adoption finalization.
There is no state interest in keeping original birth certificates sealed from the adult adoptees to which they pertain. Nor does the state have a right or duty to mediate and oversee the personal relationships of adults. Those who claim a statutory right to parental anonymity through sealed records or though restricted access to them promote statutory privilege and state favoritism. 30,000 Connecticut adoptees were left behind in the last round of legislation. The pasage of SB 977 brings them back.
SB 977 and its sponsors get it right. SB 977 creates equal birth certificate access for all Connecticut adoptees. It treats the state’s adoptees as equal with the not-adopted, and post October 1, 1983 adoptees. It stops the humiliating onerous legal (and sometimes costly) process for adoptees simply to get their own birth certificates. SB 977 reflects the simple inclusive, unrestricted access process that nine states have on the books (Oregon, Alabama, Colorado, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Kansas and Alaska).
Support Connecticut in being a leader in adoptee equality and adoption reform. Please return unrestricted and unconditional OBC access to all Connecticut adoptees. When SB 977 crosses your desk, please vote DO PASS as written with no restrictive or conditional language. It’s the right thing to do!
Bastard Nation is dedicated to the recognition of the full human and civil rights of adult adoptees. Toward that end, we advocate the opening to adoptees, upon request at age of majority, of those government documents which pertain to the adoptee’s historical, genetic, and legal identity, including the unaltered original birth certificate and adoption decree. Bastard Nation asserts that it is the right of people everywhere to have their official original birth records unaltered and free from falsification, and that the adoptive status of any person should not prohibit him or her from choosing to exercise that right. We have reclaimed the badge of bastardy placed on us by those who would attempt to shame us; we see nothing shameful in having been born out of wedlock or in being adopted. Bastard Nation does not support mandated mutual consent registries or intermediary systems in place of unconditional open records, nor any other system that is less than access on demand to the adult adoptee, without condition, and without qualification.