Bastard Nation, the Adoptee Rights Organization conditionally supports Rhode Island S 478 Sub A. This bill is an amended version of the earlier S 478, which included a disclosure veto. The bill also had provisions that limited original birth certificate (OBC) access to adult adoptees born after Jan. 1, 2012, or to those who are 40 years or older after the effective date of the bill. None of those provisions restored the right of OBC access guaranteed until 1944, for all Rhode Island adoptees. Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, whose sister has two adopted children, and supported this bad bill, took a lot of heat after she told the Providence Journal she wanted to limit OBC access to older adoptees because “I want them to be able to find their records in an appropriate and meaningful kind of way, not because they want to get back at their adoptive parents.”
After heavy public and private criticism from the Rhode Island adoption community and reformers, Goodwin backtracked, the prospective provision and vetoes were removed and the age limit reduced to 30. On Wednesday the bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously with a Do Pass recommendation to the full Senate. Committee members also showed support for a floor amendment to lower the age of access. Sen. Rhoda Perry says she will introduce an amendment to sunset the age qualification and lower the age to 25. The floor vote is scheduled for Wednesday, June 23.
Bastard Nation is happy that S 478 Sub A is clean, but does not support the current age mandate. We believe that adopted adults should be treated the same under law as the not-adopted.
The Age of Majority
The age of majority is defined as “adulthood in the eyes of the law.” After reaching majority, a person is permitted to vote, make a valid will, enter into binding contracts, marry, enlist in the military, and purchase alcohol. Also, parents may stop making child support payments when a child reaches the age of majority. In most states the age of majority is 18, but this varies depending on the activity. In no state does age of majority exceed the age of 21.
Rhode Island Code: § 15-12-1: Persons of full age. – (a) Notwithstanding any general or public law or provision of the common law to the contrary, all persons who have attained the age of eighteen (18) years shall be deemed to be persons of full legal age.
We urge the Senate to reconsider the age qualification, and amend S 478 Sub A to match Rhode Island’s age of majority statute, 18. If the bill cannot be amended this session due to time constraints, (the session closes in a few days), we urge the legislature to pass the bill as currently written, but to return next session to amend the age qualification to align not only with the Rhode Island code, but with states across the country where OBCs are open unconditionally. While we prefer to see the bill amended to majority now, a sunset within a reasonable time frame is not a deal breaker. Otherwise, a bad precedent has been set, segregating OBC access qualification well into adulthood. No one should be forced to wait until the age of 30 to acquire the public documentation of his or her birth.
Bastard Nation has worked in an advisory capacity with Access Rhode Island throughout this campaign. We commend the organization for holding the line during this very complicated negotiation and for deconstructing all opposition arguments in such a sweeping and swift manner. Unlike other “adoptee rights organizations” that toss away the actual right of access “to get something passed” Access Rhode Island has stood firm to restore the right to all of its state’s adoptees, not just some. If the age is not amended down this session, Access Rhode Island, Bastard Nation and other Rhode Island activists will work until it is.
Bastard Nation is waiting for information from Access Rhode Island and will issue an action alert very shortly. In the meantime, please go to Adoptee access to birth certificates passes hurdle published in the June 16 edition of the ProJo and voice your opinion. Rhode Island legislators are reading and paying attention to comments.