Sponsors, opponents respond to governor’s conditional veto of adoptee bill

Sponsors of a bill that would have allowed adult adopted unrestricted access to their birth certificates weighed in Thursday on the governor’s conditional veto.

State Sen. Joe Vitale, (D-19), who championed the bill in the upper house and was a driving force behind its passage, said the state is treating adoptees as if they were children in need of adult supervision.

“I’m disappointed that the state treats the adult adoptees as if they were children,” Vitale said. “Children are afraid of the dark and adults are afraid of the light.”

The bill would have allowed a one-year opt-out period for birth parents to request that their personal information not be disclosed.  After that, access to the birth certificate would be unrestricted.

The governor’s conditional veto would require adoptees to enlist a confidential intermediary to track down birth parents to obtain permission for the release of the certificate.  In the event the intermediary cannot find the parents, the state would release the birth certificate.

In vetoing the bill, the governor said he had weighed the rights of the adoptees as well as the birth parents.

“And while I share the sponsors’ goals of timely and significant reform, I believe that additional safeguards are needed to best balance the needs of adoptees seeking the identity of their biological parents with the expectations of birth parents who may wish for their identities to remain private,” Christie wrote in the conditional veto message.

State Sen. Diane Allen, (R-7), said she takes the governor’s action as a personal loss.

“I stand by the bill I worked on for 10 years. We took hundreds of hours of testimony,” she said.  “We worked really hard on it, trying to bring all parties to the table. I don’t agree with the conditional veto and I’m very disappointed. I take it as a personal loss.”

Sponsors in the Assembly said they will study the suggestions made by the governor to ensure any new legislation will result in rights for adoptees.

“Knowledge of family medical history is paramount for individuals faced with a health crisis and adoptees are no exception. This legislation would have granted them access to information they are denied at through no fault of their own,” said Democratic Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, (D-32).  “I’m concerned about the potential consequences of the Governor’s conditional veto and will carefully review his version of the bill.”

The bill has been debated in Trenton for 30 years and adoptees had hoped they might finally see it turned into law.  Bi-partisan support and a governor whose sister is adopted were in their favor, they said.

But a broad collation of opponents that included NJ Right to Life, The ACLU, the Bar Association and the Catholic Conference succeeded in pushing the governor toward an alternative proposal they felt better protects the privacy of women who put their children up for adoption.

Marie Tasy, executive director of Right to Life, said he governor’s suggestions represent a worthy compromise.

“Governor Christie’s conditional veto is a win-win compromise which takes into account the rights and desires of all parties in adoption,” Tasy said. “It provides the ability to obtain an original birth certificate when all parties mutually consent.  It also allows the means to obtain medical history information while also respecting the privacy of birth parents who need and desire it.  We hope the Legislature will adopt the Governor’s recommendations.”

Sponsors, opponents respond to governor’s conditional veto of adoptee bill