There are a lot of problems with CARE’s proposed access bill in California: elitism, compromise, rejection of rights and grassroots, and its decision to go for a bill in the midst of California’s economic dissolution.
After several comments posted in my earlier blog entry regarding the so-called constitutionality issue in records access in California, I intended to a make relatively short comment, but decided that topic and some other thoughts really need a separate entry. Below I discuss the constitutionality issue and make a couple observations on the coming California Fiasco.
This is not meant to be a definitive response. My comments are mine only, and do not represent CalOpen, which is perfectly capable of taking care of business itself.
WHY DOES CARE BELIEVE THAT AN UNRESTRICTED ACCESS BILL WON’T FLY?
The California Adoption Reform Effort (CARE) has shown little inclination to learn the history of past California records access campaigns, organize California adoptees outside the Amen Corner, build long-term relationships with leggies, or learn the lay of the Cal legislature, even with their pricey navigator…er… I mean lobbyist… at the helm.
Judging from CARE’s past disinterest in constitutional studies (see BB Church) and its recent lame de facto attempt to acquire a CalOpen-commissioned legal study (now in the possession of Bastard Nation) on state constitutional repercussions of a clean bill, suggests that it hasn’t commissioned research of its own, nor does it really care what research might say anyway. Seasoned rights-based activists working access bills know that CARE’s cry that pols have already evinced “privacy concerns” is a given. Pols hate controversy. “Privacy” is always “controversial.” (except when the government wants to snoop on us). It is always an issue when adoptee records access is concerned. Good research and preparation are what good activists do before they jump into the fire. CARE won’t win over everybody, but the hat they’re holding in their hand won’t go up in smoke either, if they know what they’re talking about.
CARE poobahs, however, just “know”that a clean records bill won’t pass state constitutional muster, a rather strange decision from an organization that claims its arguments are “non-emotional” and based on “statistical and empirical data.” Perhaps they’ve contracted Sylvia Brown to save them the trouble of actually paying for a study of their own (which may or may not back them up) and publishing the document for their supposed constituency to read and decide for themselves. Or maybe they’re just lazy.
According to deformer logic, the way to pass a bill is to scissor out this and this and this until the bill is one big black hole in which to shove certain classes of unworthy adoptees. The bill has no value to anyone but the people who want their names on it. Those who fail to meet deformer criteria– born the wrong year, lack parental consent, or some other arbitrary standard are, in the vernacular, shit outta luck.
If the bad bill fails, the same old deformers come back with the same old bad bill, with the same old “strategies” the next year and the next and the next and the next.
If the bad bill actually passes, riddled with exclusions (tiered access, disclosure vetoes, white-outs, mandated CIs, a registry, and whatever other sell-outs they can come up with), deformers claim victory, ignoring that they have eviscerated rights and created a vested interest in secrecy where none existed before, that most likely cannot be divested. In other words, certain classes of adoptees are screwed. If it saves just one….
How do deformers explain their logic to the shut-out and disenfranchised? They don’t.
A couple years ago the Massachusetts ABC group conveniently removed their names and contact information from their webpage, when, with their consent and support, their bill went south, excluding about 33 years of adoptees from access under their proud “access” law.
Records access is “non-partisan.” We would all love to support a clean bill in California, no matter who promotes it, as long as we know it is put forward by principled activists who know when to hold ’em and when to to fold ‘em. New Hampshire Senator Lou D’Alessandro knew. Sen. D demanded an up or down vote and got it. So did California Assembly Member Anthony Pescetti a few years ago, who pulled a bill. With CARE we know this won’t happen.
WHO IS TRYING TO MAKE A STATEMENT?
One of the most bothering declarations from CARE, outside of its claim that records access is not about rights, is its trivialization and marginalization of experienced, successful rights-based legislators and activists, articulated in its letter (see previous blogs below).
The Shut Up We Know What’s Good For You Principle practiced alike by “friendly” deformers, the National Council for Adoption, the ACLU and anybody else who rejects adoptee autonomy is well articulated here:
There is going to be little room for debate on this if the time comes – we are being represented by a legislator who is in this to pass the legislation, not to make a statement.
Did Alabama Representative Jeff Dolabare fight a rights-based, no compromise campaign just to “make a statement”?
Did New Hampshire Senator Lou D’Allesandro and Representatives Janet Allen and Mike Whalley fight a rights-based, no compromise campaign just to “make a statement”?
Did Maine’s Representative David Farrington and Senator Paula Benoit fight a rights-based, no compromise campaign just to “make a statement”?
Did California Assembly Member Anthony Pescetti, sponsor of CalOpen’s AB 1349 (2001-2002) (and here) who had the integrity and moral fortitude to pull the bill rather than see it ruined, fight a rights-based, no compromise campaign just to “make a statement”?
Did Helen Hill in Oregon, Alabama AWARE , the New Hampshire coalition, and OBC for ME fight rights-based, no compromise campaigns just to “make a statement”?
Did CalOpen fight a rights based, no compromise campaign and give up its much-loved bill “just to make a statement“?
To say that the ideology of inclusion is merely a “statement” reduces the very real sacrifices of time, money, energy, family, friends and jobs that these pioneers and heroes made to nothing more than stunt status–a sideshow. I was at the statehouse in Sacramento the day that CalOpen decided to pull its bill. I saw the frustration, the anger, the open weeping of some who had worked so hard to get their bill as far as it had come. This was no stunt. This was courage.
CARE tells everybody outside of the anything-is-better-than-nothing crowd to go piss up a rope. We’re “professionals.” We know best.
CARE ignores both the historical successes in Oregon, Alabama, New Hampshire, and Maine and repeated deformist failures across the country including Minnesota, Connecticut, and bleeding New Jersey. It writes adoptees and bastards out of their scenario.
CARE has admitted that it will gut its clean bill to get something passed—hardly something that makes sense under a rights-for-all-based process (but then theirs is “wish based,” anyway) or will gain the support of everyday bastards and adoptees.
This begs the question:
Who is really “making a statement’?
And what is it?
I want to make a small clarification. It is CARE’s language that is inflammatory. I have no idea how the actual sponsor and potential co-sponsors feel about unrestricted access or have said. We would all love to support a clean bill that remains clean. I hope that can happen, but the out-the-gate defeatist “strategy” of CARE endangers the rights of all California adoptees, and ultimately influences other state campaigns.
I understand the language thing I do.
It is a real problem.
So like you have said is the privacy aspect, I mean of course, that is a given.
The idea though of course would be to debunk the mistaken notion that terminating ones parental rights grants anonymity whether it is desired or not.
They are looking at bill 1349(?) as their model, they want a clean bill.
I think it would behoove California and the rest of the states if there was an effort to reconcile and mentor CARE instead of trashing them or dismissing them out of hand. We need all the help we can get.
If there was a way to present a united front with a shared goal, then we look a lot less crazy to the legislators.
I know they have a professional lobbyist, but am not seeing any indication she understands the peculiarly complex emotional nature of this topic matter. How to steer it away from emotions and into the realm of law and liberty.
It is my understanding that she worked on behalf of an industry before.
We are on the other side of that, we are working against an industry broadly speaking.
That doesn’t mean she isn’t teachable.
Their strategy is a bit naive, but there are a lot of people who could offer their insight and experience into refining it.
They may be willing to listen if a dialogue is opened.
You know I am not afraid of getting ugly, in fact can get so ugly it is a thing of beauty, but why if it is not necessary?
Why throw down the gauntlet until all other avenues have been explored?
I am not afraid to lobby against a compromise but we will all end up looking like a bunch of in-fighting hillbillies and we will all lose that way.
I think it is too early to decide negotiations with CARE are not worthwhile.
Well, California is just one of many fish in the ocean. I said what needed to be said, but other fish are a-flyin’ around the country. Especially, I’ve got an AAC presentation to write, which has already been put back several weeks, and will be taking up a good part of thinking time for awhile.
There is no bigger fish than California.
I heard that a statement was made at a S. Cal meeting that they would not compromise except for a contact preference form. What is the truth?
Who knows, this looks like a case of trying to be all things to all people. Certainly the language on their web page is weasely and confusing.