I'm at a wake of a relative of my husband in New Jersey, and my husband's niece is also there. She is an attorney, and one of her friends who came is also an attorney has come by to pay his respects for her sake, and husband's niece knows that he is adopted and she thinks I ought to meet him. Though past experience has told me that is usually not a good idea because the most unlikely things can happen, she brings him over near the end of the evening and mentions that he's adopted and leaves. Okay, now what? But dumb me, I assumed that he had some knowledge of the NJ Adoptee Rights bill--he's an attorney and he's adopted, right?--and Gov. Christie's veto, and mention that.
He looks at me and I realize he doesn't have a clue what I am talking about.
So I tell him, and I tell him that I had been somewhat involved in this issue as I've written quite a few letters to NJ legislators and Op-eds in more than one paper there over the decades we've been at this, before we get very far into this conversation he is telling me about the Catholic Church must be behind Christie's veto and I say, Yeah, Catholic Charities in New Jersey was against, but in other dioceses in the U. S. such as in Albany, the local bishop actually came out for unsealing the records. But almost immediately he is arguing for a natural mother's (or birth mother's, dear Google) right to privacy, and I explain that the laws weren't written that way and that ONLY when a person is adopted are the original birth certificates sealed, and so legally there could have been no presumed right to "privacy" and by the way many natural mothers (like myself) NEVER wanted anonymity from their children but they had no choice when we relinquished our children, it was anonymity or nothing, but the guy is yakking a blue streak at me. About how since the anonymity was presumed you could make a good legal case for that, and about how the law MUST have been written with the "best interests" of the child in mind because that surely takes precedence, and I'm arguing that adoptees can vote, go to war, pay taxes, get married, get divorced, and he is countering about the right to presumed privacy of the birth mother and he jabbering on with words words words and he says this would make a good law review article, and somehow I mention the NJ ACLU and Deborah Jacobs and he knows her too because he's done some work for the ACLU but he really wants to talk over and at me about the "presumption of privacy" at the time of relinquishment and he's and interrupting me and not letting me finish a fucking sentence and I'm thinking WTF is this?
I mean, he was as bad as the lawyers I argued with on television back in 1979-80 when Birthmark came out and I was Most Reviled Person on adoptive parents' lists. It occurs to me that he just sees an old granny first mother from the Baby Scoop Era. And somewhere along the line I realize my blood pressure is scooting up and I'm getting pissed at this jerk--I mean, he's adopted and he's so damn busy making the case for Christie and Catholic Charities and the family-law section of the NJ Bar. WTF am I doing and why am I bothering?
WHY IS HE MAKING THE CASE FOR SEALED RECORDS?
This is worse that arguing with anti-legislators crosses my mind--they are usually more polite than this-- and I'm telling him how the laws came to be passed and that often it was adoptive parents (as in New York when the sealed-records statute was passed in 1935 at the behest of ADOPTIVE FATHER OF THREE, Gov. Herbert H. Lehman) and this guy is still talking at me and I can feel my blood pressure rising and my husband who is a few feet away is beginning to pay attention but he hasn't been able to hear the barrage of words in favor of birth mothers' privacy and against unsealing the original birth certificates of adoptees and I finally say, quite forcefully, so this guy will pay attention:
I've argued with a lot of male lawyers about this but they are usually adoptive parents.
That shuts him up finally.
And I tell him at last that the Cornell University survey of adoptive parents shows that even they today are largely in favor of unsealing the original birth certificates.
Finally he says that the single clear reason he can see for the unrestricted access to adoptees' original birth certificates is to be able for them to get their medical histories. Well, at least he conceded that there might be a reason for OBC access, but as a pure "right"? No siree.
Ultimately, here is what I learn: He has always had his original birth certificate; at some point he found and met his natural mother, they had some sort of relationship, but she is now deceased. His biological father's name is on the birth certificate--he knows it as well as his own name and says it and I recognize it as a Polish name--and he'd like to find him but a simple search (Google, I suspect) hasn't revealed anything. I say I might be able to put him in touch with a search angel or someone who could, for a fee, find his father, and he says he would like that and he gives me his card.
Okay, I know you have questions--I've seen the Facebook comments when I mentioned this briefly last evening--but here is what I will reveal without giving away his identity as he had no idea he was talking to a writer: he is at a law school in one of the ancillary services at the school and appears not to belong to any of the various practice sections of the NJ bar.
MORE WORK TO DO
Here is what I took away from that conversation: We have a lot of work to do in New Jersey. This guy was adopted, had his own original birth certificate (it was a private adoption, he says) but he knew nothing about the issue and furthermore harangued me as he forcefully made the case for first mother privacy. Don't you ever read the paper? I was thinking--there have been a lot of stories about this in the news.
The next time I read that adoptees don't need every first mother they can find in support of reform in the ingoing battle for unsealing original birth certificates, whether or not they have the language down perfect, no matter if they are twenty-seven or seventy-two--as I did recently at another blog--I will be amused. WE need first mothers to storm Trenton and Albany! And every other state capital where the records are still sealed! We need natural mothers to speak out for giving adoptees their OBCs, but we also would like to be treated with respect while we do.
ANYBODY WANT TO HELP
Anybody interested in helping this guy? I don't do searches, and I said I would put him in touch with someone who might be able to find his biological father. Let me know through Comments; I won't publish those who are interested in helping him, and I will email him with your contact info. BTW, please educate him along the way. --lorraine