Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Orphan Trade, Gay Marriage and Open Records Legislation


Though many of my friends seem astonished by the information that international adoption is not simply a great humanitarian gesture, but loaded with corruption and kidnapping for profit, the word is getting out. Yesterday Jane wrote about the commentary and story at the New York Times blog about Madonna and her quest for another child from Malawi. The other day Slate published a piece by E.J. Graff, along with a slide show of pictures and stories. We have trumpeted Graff's work before in Foreign Policy here at FirstMotherForum. Again at Slate, as the New York Times, comments come from "defensive" adoptive parents, some of whom call her journalism incompetent and otherwise attack Graff.

The comments remind me of lobbying in Albany with Unsealed Initiative for open records for adoptees. While most of the people we met were polite, and a growing number were sympathetic to our cause, every now and then we ran into someone who looked at us as if we were crackpots and that we represented only a fringe group.Well-adjusted birth mothers wouldn't be there; neither would good adoptees.

One such legislator, who was absolutely rude and nasty to the three of us who met with him was...Rosie O'Donnell's brother, Danny. I was with two adopted people. In less than three minutes, O'Donnell had the other woman in tears and the man--who had gone to court to get his original birth certificate but been turned down--was so mad that as we left he told the women who worked for O'Donnell that their boss was one of the worst human beings he had ever met. Our few minutes with him reminded me of some of the early talk shows I did back in 1979 when Birthmark came out. When the attacks were almost expected.

O'Donnell told us that he would never NEVER vote for an open-records bills. Rep. O'Donnell (whose district is in Manhattan) is on my mind today because there was a story about him in the New York Times yesterday about how he is shepherding a bill for gay marriage through the Assembly, and how he sometimes twists arms with threats and sharp elbows. Now I am all in favor of gays and lesbians having the right to marry and gain the advantages of legal coupledom, and expressed my views in USA Today some time ago. But just reading about O'Donnell made me crazy mad all over again.

O'Donnell, who is as out as his loud-mouth sister, is all about rights for gays, but all against rights for adopted people. To his mind, they ought to be glad they were adopted at all (by his sister, one supposes) and shut up about their birth mothers because they are all after Rosie's money. He told my group that we were well dressed and were probably nice people before he let loose. He seemed to imply: Hey, I'm surprised you birth mothers aren't all crack whores.

But thinking about the momentum for gay marriage makes me sad that we have not gone further in our campaign to give adopted people equal rights with the rest of us. That we still have laws in most states that prevent adopted people from learning their original names and heritage simply because they want to know. In any other area, curiosity is seen as a sign of intelligence; yet when an adoptee asks Who am I? Who was I at birth? some see it as a sign of ingratitude. O'Donnell is one such person. And so are many of the people who comment about international adoption.

We need more backers such as Paula Benoit in Maine and Lou D' Allesandro in New Hampshire, both of whom were instrumental in getting legislation passed that gave adopted people the right to their original birth certificates, withOUT a "contact veto" tacked on. (Contact preferences are fine.) Benoit is an adoptee; D'Allesandro is an adoptive father. Joyce Bahr of Unsealed Initiative (see sidebar) just informed us that one of the legal counsels of a legislator supposedly sponsoring the bill of adoptee rights in New York was actually very wishy-washy on the issue. No wonder we weren't getting further with his office. Now a new legal counsel is in place.

We need to find people in legislatures who can convince their peers that the time has come for open records. We need more people out. We need more adopted people angry they cannot have their original birth certificates. We need more birth mothers letting it be known they do not want to stay hidden from their children. Yes, I know some want to stay anonymous, and I know some of those children will read this. My heart aches for them but I do not know what to do about these women.

But somehow, we who fight for open records need to make a louder noise.--lorraine
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PS: Unsealed Initiative will be lobbying next week in Albany again. If you have a NY connection (relinquishment or adoption) please consider a day given over to lobbying. Even though you may run into some resistance (as above but I hardly think anyone will be as rude as O'Donnell was), the day is energizing and gratifying, and always results in picking up more sponsors for the Bill of Adoptee Rights. Check out Unsealed Initiative 's blog and contact Joyce at unsealedinitiative@nyc.rr.com.

And do take a look at the Slate story (link above). It's well worth your time. If you comment there, copy and post it here too.

9 comments :

  1. Yes, I believe the stereotypes need to be countered at every turn and the law-makers cannot be allowed to forget that first mothers and a-parents also support open records. If this guy is representative, then the learning curve is steeper than I imagined. Adoption is sort of where gay rights were 20 years ago.

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  2. BTW, I went and posted at Slate and I wouldn't characterize some of the comments as defensiveness--more like outright DENIAL!

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  3. "He told my group that we were well dressed and were probably nice people before he let loose."

    Wow...what on earth does what you were wearing have to do with this issue?

    I find it difficult to believe that O'Donnell is truly "representative" of his district.

    He certainly has a skewed view as to equal rights, applying the principle to some groups and not to other.

    He will acknowledge and listen to the advocates who have spoken out for same sex couples and their children but I guess he sees adoptees and birth parents as a lesser part of our society and undeserving of equal rights.

    Supporting gay marriage in May of 2008, O'Donnell wrote:

    "This bill will provide the basic rights and protections same-sex couples and their children deserve, guaranteeing the respect and equality that should be afforded to all people under the law."

    How is anything adoptees and birth parents asking for disrespectful?
    Aren't adoptees and birth parents among ALL PEOPLE?

    O'Donnell goes on to say:

    "...same-sex marriage is an equal rights issue."

    "I would also like to acknowledge all of the advocates and regular citizens that made their voices heard in support of this issue...
    After this legislation passes, I will finally be able to marry my partner of 26 years, John Banta."

    One would think that being the first openly gay man in the New York Assembly he would be in a position to identify with the oppressed. One would be wrong.

    I guess you've got be to both gay and adopted; well no, that probably wouldn't matter either. He'd fight for your right to marry someone of the same sex but not for your right to know your heritage or have your original birth certificate.

    Can you say "talking out of both sides of his mouth?"

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  4. Sounds like being an obnoxious jerk runs in the Rosie O'Donnell family. Too bad he can't see the similarities between gay rights and adoptee rights.

    For an nicer analysis of adoptee, gay, and black rights go to Craig Hickman's blog at
    http://craighickman.blogspot.com/

    Craig is a black gay adoptee and a wonderful writer.

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  5. Maryanne, I've seen his blog before and enjoyed it. I appreciated the parallels he drew (also the observations of Aunt Patty). He's in a position to see why this stuff matters--infantilizing of adoptees; demonizing of gay men and lesbians. It bothers me at times when gay couples are singled out as being more baby-voracious than the heteros.

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  6. O'Donnell's ignorance isn't surprising. To allow adoptees access to their birth records means having to acknowledge, once again, that gays can't biologically have children, a fact they seem to resent as much as any adoptive parent resents. It destroys the image they are trying to project: that they are rescuing children & should be admired for doing what we as birth mothers chose not to do. We are terrible people for doing what we did & our identities should never be revealed at all cost. Ironically, this same "old school" attitude is what prevents modern day society to explore adoption as a viable option to an unplanned pregnancy. There is such stigma attached to the mere mention of the word adoption that you can literally hear people clam up when you utter the word. Unless of course, it is a wealthy celebrity who is doing the adopting. We can talk about everything under the sun on television today from erectile dysfunction, to sex for money phone lines, but you mention the word adoption & suddenly there's a 300 pound gorilla in the room & people can't get to the door fast enough to leave.

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  7. ". . .gays can't biologically have children, a fact they seem to resent as much as any adoptive parent resents."

    Little bit of a broad brush there, don't you think? First it isn't true per se that gays can't "biologically have children"; they just don't make them with each other. Many enter relationships with children or, if they're women, use donor sperm or in-vitro. Some do elect to adopt but I don't see the kind of resentment you're talking about unless you're referring to adoption discrimination--straight or gay--and that seems to me another issue altogether.

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  8. We need more backers such as Paula Benoit in Maine and Lou D' Allesandro in New Hampshire, both of whom were instrumental in getting legislation passed that gave adopted people the right to their original birth certificates, with a "contact veto" tacked on. TYPO? I AM CERTAIN YOU MEANT "WITHOUT" A CONTACT VETO TACKED ON ! Paula and Lou have both been to RI to support unrestricted access to the OBC ! Super people !

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  9. Correction made. Thanks for letting me know.

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