Example Open Records Legislation
In the interest of assisting state groups in their efforts to lobby bills granting unconditional open records for adult adoptees in their various states, we have assembled a source of links to the statutes of those states which now permit such access (Alabama, Alaska, Kansas and Oregon).There are many differences among these laws. Some grant access to the entire adoption file as well as the original birth certificate (Kansas.) Some are framed in terms that seem to indicate the primary purpose of access is giving information to the adoptee or birth parent to facilitate a reunion (Alaska). Oregon’s adoptee-rights-driven law granting access to the original birth certificate is short and simple, a reflection of the fact that it was passed in a ballot initiative (Measure 58, 1998) and needed to be readily comprehensible to the voting public. Alabama’s 2000 law grants access to the entire contents of the file held by the Department of Health, which includes the adoption decree. Two include Contact Preference Forms (Oregon and Alabama), which permit the birth parent to file a form indicating contact preferences without legally binding the adoptee. Each state open records group will have to study the adoption codes and vital statistics statutes of their own state to decide how their bill should be written, as every bureaucracy functions slightly differently and documents may be held in different locations.
Part of the Mission of Bastard Nation is to restore unconditional adoptee access to all government-held records which pertain to the genetic, legal, and historical identity of the adoptee, but as a practical matter many state efforts have focused on access to the original birth certificate alone. We also do not recommend including a Contact Preference Form in the initial bill; both Oregon’s and Alabama’s were added to forestall unacceptable amendments which would have burdened the adoptee’s access to their own records. State groups are encouraged to get in touch with the Legislative Co-Chairs of Bastard Nation, for advice on writing and lobbying their own unconditional open records bills.
Links to Records Access Statutes in Open States: