Monday, January 16, 2012

Washington State: Bastard Nation Testimony in Opposition to HB 2211/suggested amendments

HB2 2211
Adoptee access to their own original birth certificates

Washington House Committee on the Judiciary

January 16, 2011


Privilege is the opposite of rights

Our Washington representative cannot attend the hearing today so we are submitting this testimony 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 HB 2211. Unfortunately we cannot.

The sticking point is HB 2211's “affidavit of non-disclosure,” otherwise known as a disclosure veto. This veto creates a special third party privilege for birthparents that no one, parent or otherwise, possesses: to bypass state law and to personally bar release of another person's birth certificate to the person to whom it pertains.

Already in place for adoptions finalized on and after October 1 1993, HB 2022 would expand this onerous and discriminatory veto privilege to cover all adoptions; thus expanding the pool of segregated adoptees unable to access their OBCs, even when the vast majority of the state's adoptees could..

Interestingly, HB 2211 expires on July 1, 2012, all current vetoes on file. Those birthparents wishing to remain on the veto books would be required to file a new disclosure veto limited to two years duration, and subject to continued filings every two years.

It appears that the sponsors of the bill have it half right. They are willing to permit the state's adopted class OBC access—unless a third part objects—but limit that third party objection to two year increments. That is, the sponsors appear to find something inherently wrong with vetoes, but feel some sort of obligation to the keep them going .Such an attitude may justify past bad legislation but does not justify denying the adoptees of Washington State the restoration of their civil rights. There is no middle way when it comes to rights: a right exists or it doesn't, and it 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 911, 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 abrogated for adoptaees because OBC access might make some people “uncomfortable?”

As I said in the beginning, were it not for the disclosure veto in all it;'s forms,, including modified, we and our members would happy to support HB 2211.

We recommend that Washington State make history, and simply expire permanently all vetoes currently in place. Amend HB 2211 with the following:
  • 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 of HB 2211
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 17,000 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 you amend HB 2211 to a clean bill to recognize the right of all of the state's adopted people to their own OBC without restriction, then vote DO NOT PASS . Washington adoptees must enjoy equal protection, due process, and dignity, not favors.

Submitted by Marley Greiner
Executive Chair
Bastard Nation: the adoptee rights organization
January 16, 2011

Bastard Nation is dedicated to the recognition of the full human and civil rights of adult adoptees. Toward that end, we advocate the opening to adoptees, upon request at age of majority, of those government documents which pertain to the adoptee's historical, genetic, and legal identity, including the unaltered original birth certificate and adoption decree. Bastard Nation asserts that it is the right of people everywhere to have their official original birth records unaltered and free from falsification, and that the adoptive status of any person should not prohibit him or her from choosing to exercise that right. We have reclaimed the badge of bastardy placed on us by those who would attempt to shame us; we see nothing shameful in having been born out of wedlock or in being adopted. Bastard Nation does not support mandated mutual consent registries or intermediary systems in place of unconditional open records, nor any other system that is less than access on demand to the adult adoptee, without condition, and without qualification.

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