The push for the new legislation comes following a report by the Law Reform Commission which found that having both the mother and father’s name on a birth certificate could help reinforce a child’s right to know their parents. The Law Reform Commission also warned that without knowledge of who their father is, children could run the risk of “striking up relationships” with people they are unknowingly related to. [Emphasis added.]
While this is happening across the Atlantic, here in America we can't get the legislators in charge in, say, my home state of New York, to understand that knowing your true identity should be a right without question. As the days tick down to the end of yet another legislative year across the country, we have not one more state to add to those where the legislature saw the light and gave adoptees the right to their original birth certificates, and to do with the information on them as they chose. It's really very simple: Give to the adult what he could not know as a child because he was too young to grasp and hold the information.
Because of legislation passed last session, those adopted individuals born in Rhode Island 25 years of age and over will be able request their original unamended birth certificates on July 1st.
A CLEAN REFORM BILL IN NY
But this year, efforts in several states so far have gone nowhere, and for many states, time has run out for another year. In New York, we get our hopes up--we have good solid backers of a clean bill--that is, one without the poison pill of a birth parent veto--in both houses, the Assembly and the Senate, but it appears without the strong push of Governor Andrew Cuomo, our bill will once again fall between the cracks. Gay marriage was the social issue which Gov. Cuomo used his clout on this session; so far we do not hear that he will take up the legislative cudgel he has and use his clout to end the tyranny of the genealogical void of most adoptees born in New York state.
What do we hear? That certain important legislators (Sen. Tom Duane, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein) will go on opposing our bill as long as they see themselves "protecting" even a single birth mother from the shame of exposure. That is the kind of thinking that is impossible to combat; there will always be birth mothers imprisoned by shame and unconcerned for the well-being of their offspring. I do not know how to reach them, or how to help them open their hearts. What we must do instead is convince legislators that the rights of the individual to know their place in the tree of life supersedes any supposed right to birth mother privacy, a right that many--if not most--of us did not ask for, nor did not want when we relinquished our children. Maybe we wanted our shame hidden at the time, but not forever did we want to be unknown to our children.
In Ireland and other places in the world people understand that one needs to know one's heritage, if only so as not to unknowingly enter into intimate relations with one's siblings--or parent! But in America a willful blindness to this need has descended on far too many legislators.
What the movement needs is a huge wellspring of action from the first mothers and adopted individuals acting up and speaking out for their rights to rip those scales off. Without action, there will be no reaction from the legislators. Another year will go by without even one more more state on the tally sheet states that have brought their legislation into the modern era. Rhode Island will make the number of states with unrestricted access to original birth certificates for adopted individuals a mere seven. Numerous other states have a crazy quilt of laws that give some adoptees, but not all, the right to their original birth certificates. Several states allow birth parents to file a veto, thereby leaving in their hands total power over another class of people.
It is a shameful situation. And it is peculiarly American, this notion that roots do not count for all, while television reality shows and websites such as ancestry.com by their very popularity show this to be a sham.
NEEDED ASAP: PHONE CALLS, ONLY TAKES A FEW MINUTES
Right now we could use help in New York before the legislature comes to an end. If you were born and adopted in New York State, if you relinquished in New York state, or are a current resident of New York, please take a moment to call the office of the leader of the NY Senate, Dean Skelos and ask that ADOPTEE EQUAL RIGHTS BILL S7286, be brought to the floor for a vote. Call 518-455-3171.
Then call Kemp Hannon, chair of the Senate Health Committee, where the bill is currently sitting, and ask that the bill be released from committee for a floor vote. Call 518-455-2200.
And lastly, call the office of the chair of the Assembly Codes Committee, Joseph Lentol, and ask that the ADOPTEE EQUAL RIGHTS BILL A8910 be put on the committee agenda for a vote. Call 518-455-4477. All three calls should take less than 10 minutes. You will speak to an aide and they are polite and only talking down number of calls. One does not need to be a member of the triad to lobby. Ask your partner, siblings, parents, friends to phone also. Numbers count.
We have dozens of sponsors and supporters of our bills but because a few powerful people are holding back the tide, our bills stagnate and die in committee. To make a difference, to do something useful with your passion and pain, speak up, act up, pick up the phone. If not you, who? If not now, when?--lorraine
New Irish law could force single mothers to name the child’s father on birth certificate
for more on the New York situation, see: UPDATE: NY Adoptee Rights