Currently the Georgia House is considering HB 524, a clean bill that will restore the right of all Georgia-born adoptees to their original birth certificates. On Monday, January 27, 2014, the bill will be heard in the Welch Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice. At that time, it is reported, that Rep. Welch will introduce an amendment that would gut the bill (see below for details.)
If you read this before the hearing (1:30 PM), please drop a short note to the committee urging it to support the original HB 524 sponsored by Rep. Buzz Braockway; and reject the amendment by Rep. Welch.
Bastard Nation is not a sponsor of the bill, but we have submitted testimony/letter for the hearing in which we request a Do Pass for the bill as introduced and a Do Not Pass for the Welch Amendment.
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For more information on the bill see Georgians for Equal Access to Records (GEAR). GEAR is not affiliated with Bastard Nation.
Adoptee access to their own original birth certificates
Welch Committee on Juvenile Justice
January 27, 2014
Leave No One Behind!
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), OBC white-outs/redactions, mandated counseling or confidential intermediary services, or any other restricted access to a true copy of the original birth certificate.
Bastard Nation is not a sponsor of HB 524, but we support the bill in its current form as introduced by Rep. Buzz Brockway, which has no restriction to access and treats adopted adults the same as the non-adopted in terms of access.
We are disturbed greatly by a proposed amended by Rep. Welch scheduled to be introduced on January 27. We have not seen the amendment. We understand, however, that it would give the “option” of a “contact preference form” by which a birthmother could ask the state to redact her name from the OBC. If there is no CPF on file, the adoptee would not get tis or her OBC. At all. A genuine “contact preference form” such as used in Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island is simply a voluntary statement by which a birthparent expresses a preference for contact. It has no legal standing and does not stop the release of the intact OBC to the adoptee.
The Welch amendment, guts the meaning and intent of HB 524 , and in fact would maintain Georgia’s archaic sealed records system, The Welch Amendment does nothing more than privilege a handful of the state’s adoptees , while keeping the rest “as is.” Moreover, the misnamed “preference” creates a special right that no other parent has—the right to deny their own adult offspring access to their publicly held birth record.
(1) Privacy vs anonymity
To save time , we stipulate proponent testimony given previously regarding arguments in favor of unrestricted OBC access and the need to pass HB 524. without the Welch Amendment. We reiterate unrestricted OBC access and other parental identifying information is not a “privacy” issue. There is no evidence in any state that OBCs 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 tto protect adoptive families from birthparent interference.
“”Privacy” and “”anonymity” are not synonymous either legally or linquisticaly. Moreover, courts have ruled that adoption anonymity does not exist. (Doe v Sundquist, and Does v Oregon Summary Judgment). 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 rights movement, 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 on court documents given to adoptive parents who can at any point give that information to the adopted person. 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. In some states adoptive parents can request the court at the time of adoption finalization to keep the document unsealed. Birth parents have no say or special privilege in any of these procedures or decisions and at no time are anonymous.
(2) Some things that might not occur to you
This is the 21st century. The information superhighway grows wider and longer each day, and adoptees and their birth and adoptive families are on it. Thousands of successful adoption searches happen each year—hundreds in Georgia alone—nearly all without the OBC. The Internet has made adoption secrecy virtually impossible. Those parents who believe that a DV or some other restriction will keep them “anonymous” are mistaken.
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. In the wake of the Obama “birther” movement, about a dozen state legislatures in the last few years, have seen bills that would require anyone running for president (and in some cases other offices) to present an original birth certificate to prove his/her place of birth and identity. The amended birth certificate of an adoptee would not suffice.
A major irregularity is a “late birth certificate “ filed a year or more after the birth. 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. Recent proposed passport changes are even more stringent and absurd, and actually include a requirement for those with problematic birth documents to list every residence in which they have ever lived, and a list of their mother’s pre-natal doctor’s appointments! http://papersplease.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/ds5513-proposed.pdf )
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 and adoptions by same sex couples.
Adopted people want their original birth certificates for many reasons. But reasons are immaterial We have a right to the facts about our births, origins, and adoptions. We have a right to do whatever we please with the information found on our birth certificates, just as the not-adopted do.
There is no state interest in keeping original birth certificates sealed from the adoptees to whom they pertain. Those who claim a statutory right to privacy, either implicitly through sealed records or through the Disclosure Veto or other restrictions ,simply enjoy a privilege created by statute which can therefore be revoked by statute.
Bastard Nation supports HB 524 insofar as it restores OBC access, but we cannot support any amendment added to this measure which creates or maintains tiers of access; that is, restores access to “qualifying” adoptees, but not to others.
All adoptees, not just some, should be treated to equal OBC access. Otherwise, ten years from now, we’ll be back here, arguing for access to the left-behinds. Make it simple. Don’t leave anyone behind!
Please vote DO Pass for Rep. Brockway’s unrestricted access bill. Vote DO NOT pass for the Welch Amendment or any other attempt to restriction access.
Executive Chair, Bastarad Natiion
formerly of Radium Springs and Albany, Georgia
National headquarters: PO Box 9959, Spokane, Washington 99209 .
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.