Rhode Island: Bastard Nation Testimony – in Support – H5453

SB 5453
an act to permit adoptees to obtain
a non-certified copy of their original birth certificates

Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee

April 12, 2011


Privilege is the opposite of rights

Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization is the largest adoptee civil rights organization in the United States. We support full, unrestricted access for all adopted persons, upon request, of their own true, unaltered original birth certificates (OBC). We fully support HB 5453 and its companion S0361. We support no other bill in either chamber.


Bastard Nation is delighted to endorse and support SB 5453, a bill that restores the right of all Rhode Island adopted persons, without restrictions or conditions, to access their original birth certificates upon request.

  • SB 5453 is inclusive. The bill, as written, is a simple-to-understand measure that recognizes the presumed right of all Rhode Island adults–adopted and not adopted– to unrestricted access and ownership of their true birth certificates.
  • SB 5453 is about rights not reunion. It is about the relation of adoptees to the state. Search and reunion are personal matters outside of government control and mediation.
  • SB 5453 maintains the current level of adoption “confidentiality” and practice. Adoption records are sealed upon finalization, not relinquishment. If an adoption petition is rejected by the courts, or the petition is withdrawn, the birth certificate remains unsealed. If an adoption is overturned or disrupted, the birth certificate is unsealed. Even in traditional closed adoptions first parent identities are often recorded on court documents given to adoptive parents without first parent consent. Similarly, legal advertisements with identifying information are often published, and courts may open adoption records for “good cause” without first parent consent. Most significantly, if a child is never adopted the birth certificate is never sealed. Thus, if sealing birth certificates was meant to hide parental identities absolutely, records would be sealed upon relinquishment, not finalization
  • SB 5453 does not open original birth certificates to the public. Original birth certificates are unsealed only to the adoptees and designated persons, not the public.

Access Access to original birth certificates guarantees that adopted persons can prove their citizenship status and “legal identity.” Adopted adults, especially since 9/11, are increasingly denied passports, drivers licenses, pensions, Social Security benefits, professional certifications, and security clearances due discrepancies on their amended birth certificates, and their inability to produce an original birth certificate to answer the problems.

Adoptees without a genuine original birth record could soon be barred from running for public office. At least 10 states have 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 citizenship 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” identity over problematic amended birth certificates, and the perpetual sealing of the originals.
Kansas and Alaska have never sealed original birth certificates. Since 1999 four states have restored to adoptees the unrestricted right to records and identity access: Oregon through ballot initiative, and Alabama, New Hampshire, and Maine through legislation. No statistics are available for Kansas and Alaska, but approximately 17,000 OBCs in the latter four states have been released with no reported ill consequences.
Rights are for all citizens, not favors or privileges for some. Rhode Island does not privilege rights by race, religion, ethnicity, age, or gender. It should not privilege rights by adoptive status.

SB 5453 gives Rhode Island lawmakers the opportunity to lead the country in positive adoption reform by restoring adoptee civil rights in the state. The bill will harm no one, but will restore equality, dignity, and fairness to adopted persons and their biological and adopted families Please vote YES on SB 5453. It’s the right thing to do!

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