Below is Bastard Nation’s testimony in opposition to SB5118 submitted to the House Judiciary Committee for the March 26, hearing. It it somewhat different from last week’s SB 1525. Both bills are bad, each in their own way
Adoptee access to their own original birth certificates
Washington State House of Representatives
March 26 2013
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 any restrictions such as the Affidavit of Non-Disclosure, Disclosure Vetoes (DV), Contact Vetoes (CV), white-outs, or any other form of restricted access to a true copy of the original birth certificate.
SB 5118 does not support the civil and human right of adult citizens who were adopted to unconditional and unrestricted access to their original birth certificate. The Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee did at one point propose a substitute bill* that citizens throughout Washington State, this entire nation and Bastard Nation would have, and did support. That substitute version has since been amended and the bill now continues the State of Washington’s discriminatory sealed birth records system as does HB 1525.
While SB 5118 and companion HB 1525 are currently written/amended to “allow” a substantially larger number of adult adopted citizens access to their original birth certificate, these bills continues to prohibit the release of original birth certificates due to the “Affidavit of Non-Disclosure” which serves as a legislative privilege for only four (4) citizens and a restriction based on the preference for contact that may be indicated on a “Contact Preference Form”
Affidavit of Non-Disclosure : This form is onerous and only serves as a discriminatory privilege. The Affidavit of Non-Disclosure was implemented into state law back in 1993 and applies only to Washington adoptions finalized on and after October 1, 1993. This Affidavit of Non-Disclosure creates a special third party privilege for birth parents that no one–parent or otherwise in the entire United States–-possesses: to bypass state law and to personally bar the state from releasing another person’s birth certificate to the person to whom it pertains.
Sooner or later Washington and every other state that has not opened OBCs unconditionally to adoptees are going to be forced to. The issue isn’t going away.
Adopted adults, especially since 9/11, are increasingly denied passports, drivers licenses, pensions, Social Security benefits, professional certifications, and security clearances due to discrepancies on their amended birth certificates, and their inability to produce an original birth certificate to remedy the problems. Proposed changes in passport application regulations will make it literally impossible for some adoptees to ever receive a passport without an accessible paper trial to the OBC.
Adoptees without a genuine original birth record could soon be barred from running for public office. Last year, at least 10 states, introduced legislation requiring presidential and vice-presidential candidates to present their original birth certificates to appropriate authorities to prove citizenship eligibility for office. Some of these bills go farther, mandating anyone running for office to prove an identity through an original birth certificate. It is no stretch to think that someday soon adoptees could be barred from voting due to lack of “legal birth certificates.”
Should these rights and entitlements be nullified for adoptees because OBC access might make some people “uncomfortable?”
HB 5118 is not redeemable. It needs to die right now.
The only recourse to death by committee could occur if this committee agrees that all Washington adoptees should receive the same treatment under law. In that case, the bill should be amended and returned to the Senate with the following:
1. Remove all reference to the Affidavit of Non-Disclosure from bills and/or proposed amendments from the current bill.
2. Unilaterally expire all Affidavits of Non-Disclosures currently on file with the effective date HB 1525.
Please note that when a state grants a privilege, which is clearly what the Affidavit of Disclosure is—it may modify or revoke that privilege at any time. We see this principal in operation through legislation where laws are enacted changing the age and conditions under which one may drive a car, buy an alcoholic beverage, or qualify for various government entitlements The Affidavit of Disclosure is no different.
For lawmakers concerned about “birth parent privacy,” a true Contact Preference Form** is an easy, ethical solution, passed in other states, that allows birth parents to voluntarily voice their preference for contact with the adoptee, without the legal ramifications of the Affidavit of Non-Disclosure for OBC access. That is, no matter what birth parents prefer, the OBC is still released.
Earlier this year, a witness during HB 1525 public hearing and the WA State Dept of Health has confirmed via an email that only FOUR (4) Affidavits of Non-Disclosure have ever been filed in Washington since 1993 and they were filed in 2012. Original birth certificate access is clearly not an issue for birth parents in Washington State, and the only objection to full access lays in legislatures where adoption is only discussed, not lived. The rights of all Washington State adoptees should not be held hostage by four presumed anonymous individuals. The State of Washington has not and cannot be expected to maintain anyone’s confidentiality through a process of prohibiting the release of a birth certificate with whom the birth certificate pertains.
Unless SB 5118 is amended to a clean bill that recognizes the right of all of the state’s adopted people to their own OBC without restriction, then vote DO NOT PASS and keep this bad bill from a floor vote. All Washington citizens are entitled and must enjoy equal protection, due process, and dignity, not favors.
Marley Greiner, Executive Chair
Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization
PO Box 9959 | Spokane, Washington 99209
* WA State Senate SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 5118 (S-1263.1)
* Confirmed total of four (4) Affidavits of Non-Disclosure on file with the WA State Dept of Health/CHS, Registration and Amendment Services Section have been confirmed via email on Feb 13, 2013 and again on Mar 22, 2013.
** Oregon Center for Health Statistics Contact Preference Form http://public.health.