SUB HB 2211:
Adoptee access to their own original birth certificates
Washington Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee
Privilege is the opposite of rights
Our Washington representative may not be able the attend the hearing so we are submitting this testimony/letter via email.
Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization is the largest adoptee civil rights organization in the United States. We support full, unrestricted access for all adopted persons, to their original birth certificates. (OBC).
Bastard Nation's roots are in Washington State, and we would like nothing more than to support SUB HB 2211. Unfortunately we cannot.
The sticking point is SUB HB 2211's “affidavit of non-disclosure,” otherwise known as a Disclosure Veto. This veto creates a special third party privilege for birth parents that no one, parent or otherwise, possesses: to bypass state law and to personally bar the state from releasing another person's birth certificate to the person to whom it pertains.
This onerous and discriminatory veto privilege, already in place for Washington adoptions finalized on and after October 1 1993, is extended in SUB HB 2211 to cover adoptions finalized before October 1, 1993;. The bill expands the pool of adoptees unable to access their OBCs; ,thus legally segregating a larger number of adoptees from those who can access them.
SUB HB 2211 not only expands the DV system, but creates a highly bureaucratic tiered system, which no other states has, that requires one set of birth parents (October 1, 1993) to renew their vetoes every 5 years, while the other set (pre- October 1, 1993) are required to renew every 10 years In effect, SUB HB 2211 not only segregates Washington's adopted citizens from the not-adopted, but segregates adoptees from those who can and cannot receive their OBC, and then divides the vetoed into separate legal classes. This bureaucratic parsing is insulting, demeaning, and unacceptable. It is anti-adoptee and anti-adoption sending the message that adoption is shameful and adoptees are dangerous.
To add to the insult, Washington media is falsely comparing SUB HB 2211 to Oregon's historic Ballot Measure 58 which in 1999 unsealed the OBCs of all Oregon-born adoptees without condition or restriction. HB 2211 is the antithesis of M58. The ballot language reads:
Upon receipt of a written application to the state registrar, any adopted person 21 years of age and older born in the state of Oregon shall be issued a certified copy of his/her unaltered, original and unamended certificate of birth in the custody of the state registrar, with procedures, filing fees, and waiting periods identical to those imposed upon non-adopted citizens of the State of Oregon pursuant to ORS 432.120 and 432.146
Sponsors and supporters claim of SUB HB 2211 claim it restores the civil right of Washington adoptees to the OBCs. Contrary to that claim, the bill, with its individual parental opt-out, continues to abrogate that right by continuing to let the legislature control our birth records and who gets what, instead of treating all adoptees in a uniform manner under law. This attitude might be politically expedient and justify past bad legislation. It does not, however, justify the continued denial of the right all Washington's adoptees once enjoyed, A right exists or it doesn't. A right is not contingent on third party approval.
Sooner or later Washington and every other state that has not opened OBCs unconditionally to adoptees are going to be forced to. The issue isn't going away. This is not a matter of if, but when.
Adopted adults, especially since 9/11, are increasingly denied passports, drivers licenses, pensions, Social Security benefits, professional certifications, and security clearances due to discrepancies on their amended birth certificates, and their inability to produce an original birth certificate to answer the problems. Proposed changes in passport application regulations will make it literally impossible for some adoptees to ever receive a passport without an accessible paper trial to the OBC.
Adoptees without a genuine original birth record could soon be barred from running for public office. Last year, at least 10 states, introduced legislation requiring presidential and vice-presidential candidates to present their original birth certificates to appropriate authorities to prove citizenship eligibility for office. Some of these bills go farther, mandating anyone running for office to prove citizenship through an original birth certificate. It is no stretch to think that someday soon adoptees could be barred from voting due to lack of “legal.”birth certificates.
Should these rights and entitlements be nullified for adoptees because OBC access might make some people “uncomfortable?”
SUB HB 2211 at this point is not redeemable. It needs to die right now in the Human Services and Corrections Committee.
The only recourse to death by committee could occur if this committee agrees that all Washington adoptees should receive the same treatment under law,. In that case, we recommend the the bill be amended and returned to the House:
remove the expansion of the disclosure veto
vacate all disclosure veto language from the current law
unilaterally expire all vetoes currently on file on the effective date HB 2211.
For lawmakers concerned about “birth parent privacy,” a contact preference form, included in this bill is an easy, ethical solution, passed in other states, that allows birth parents to voluntarily voice their preference for contact with the adoptee, without the legal ramifications of the DV for OBC access. That is, no matter what birth parents prefer the OBC is still released.
Since 1999 only 85 “no contact preferences” have been filed in Oregon, most of them filed the year the measure went into went into effect. In New Hampshire, as of December 31, 2021only 12 “no contact preferences” have been filed; 11 in 2005 and 1 in 2006. These numbers indicate that OBC access is not an issue for birth parents and that the only objection to full access lays in legislatures where adoption is only discussed, not lived.
The adoptee advocacy organization Wa-Care says on its webpage that since passage of the 1993 disclosure veto, none have been submitted. Laurie Lippold, of the Washington Children s Home Society testified that one was on file. Laws should not be passed due to speculative actions or to serve one person. The1993 DV is clearly not need or wanted.
Kansas and Alaska have never sealed original birth certificates. Since 1999 six states have restored to adoptees the unrestricted right to records and identity access: Oregon through ballot initiative, and Alabama, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island through legislation. No statistics are available for Kansas and Alaska, and Rhode Island's records won't be opened until July 1, 2012, but approximately 16,000 OBCs in the latter five states have been released with no reported ill consequences.
Rights are for all citizens, not favors doled out to some. Washington does not segregate rights by religion, ethnicity, age, or gender. It should not segregate rights by birth, adoptive status, or third party preference.
Unless SUB 2211 is amended to a clean bill that recognizes the right of all of the state's adopted people to their own OBC without restriction, then vote DO NOT PASS and keep this bad bill from a floor vote. Washington adoptees must enjoy equal protection, due process, and dignity, not favors.
Submitted by Marley Greiner
Bastard Nation: the adoptee rights organization