Adoptee access to their own original birth certificates
Washington Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee
March 21, 2013
Presented by Lori Jeske
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 Disclosure, Disclosure Vetoes (DV), Contact Vetoes (CV), white-outs, or any other restricted access to a true copy of the original birth certificate.
HB 1525 is being purported as a bill that supports “adoptee rights”. However, the bill continues the State of Washington’s discriminatory sealed birth records system. While this bill would allow a substantially larger number of adult adopted citizens access to their original birth certificate, the bill continues to prohibit the release of original birth certificates due to the “Affidavit of Non-Disclosure” which serves a privilege for only four (4) citizens at the present time.
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.
Sponsors of HB 1525 claim the bill will restore the civil right of adult adoptees to access their original birth certificate, yet the bill continues to abrogate that right by continuing to let the legislature control our birth records and who gets what, instead of treating all adoptees in a uniform manner under law. This attitude might be politically expedient and meant only to justify past bad legislation. It does not, however, justify the continued denial of the right all Washington’s adoptees once enjoyed, A right exists or it doesn’t. A right is not contingent on third party approval.
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. This is not a matter of if, but when.
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?”
HB1525 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 House 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.
3. Remove the current Contact Preference Form and its disclosure prohibition and replace it with a genuine Contact Preference Form.
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) Affidavit’s of Non-Disclosure have 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 that 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 anonymous individuals.
Unless HB 1525 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. Washington adoptees must enjoy equal protection, due process, and dignity, not favors.
Submitted by Lori Jeske
Member, Executive Committee
Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization
PO Box 9959 | Spokane, Washington 99209