After more than 30 years of effort, a group of adoptees will again see the bill they have championed go before the full assembly for a vote.
The bill, dubbed the Adoptees Birthright Bill, would allow adopted adults 18 or over to receive a copy of their original birth certificate upon request.
To protect birth parents who want no contact with children they gave up for adoption, the bill would allow one year to redact the parents’ name and address from the certificate.
Supporters of the bill have been battling for 31 years to see it become law. The bill gained full assembly support in 1992 and 1994 and was approved by the senate in 2004, 2006, 2008. In March 2010, it was approved 27 to 10 by the senate and today’s assembly vote marks the first time the bill has a chance to make it to the governor’s desk.
The current version of the bill is sponsored by Assembly Representatives Vincent Prieto, Joan Voss, Grace Spencer John Bramnick and five others.
Pete Franklin, a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and founder of Adoptees Without Liberty, said he looks forward to New Jersey being a “free state.”
“It has been harder than it should have been and we have lost friends along the way, but we will all be proud to say that New Jersey is a free state! We have confidence that Gov. Christie will perform due diligence and agree that transparency in adoption ensures ethical practices and values our children,” said Franklin, who is part of the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education (NJCARE).
For the adoptees, the bill is not about reuniting with birth parents, but instead, the ability to find out important health information that could affect them or possibly their children.
Along the way, the adoptees have faced a strange amalgamation of opponents, which has included the Catholic Conference, the ACLU, Right to Life and the Bar Association.
Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life said despite the opt-out provision, the bill is not fair to birth parents.
“The bill supported by advocates of open records does not provide liberty for all. Quite the contrary. It completely ignores the desire of birth parents who want to retain their privacy. Since 1979, medical history records have been provided to prospective adoptive parents,” Tasy said. “The desire for some for “transparency” should not trump a desire by others for “confidentiality” when it comes to personal identifying information.”
But Franklin and other adoptees say the opt-our provisions protects any parents who want to remain anonymous. In states where similar bills have been passed, only a small number of parents have used the provision, they say.
Franklin says he is hopeful Gov. Chris Christie, who has an adopted sister, will sign the bill, but it’s not over, he says, until the ink is dry.
If signed by Christie, New Jersey would join a host of state’s that allow adoptees to obtain their original birth certificate, including New Hampshire, Maine, Oregon and others. A bill in New York awaits a vote in the assembly later this month.