The Arizona legislature enacted a new law in 2021 that blasted a hole into the middle of adoptee rights in the state. Whether you call that hole a gap, a pie hole, or a donut hole (as I do), it creates two unequal classes of adopted people in the state. Here’s how the new law works.
When does the new law go into effect?
For purposes of an adopted person applying for a pre-adoption original birth certificate, the law becomes effective January 1, 2022. This FAQ is current as of January 4, 2022.
What does the new law do?
It creates two different and unequal classes of adopted people, to wit:
- The Unlucky, otherwise known as adopted people who were born in Arizona between June 20, 1968 and September 28, 2021.
- The Lucky, which is everyone else.
In this case, the “everyone else” would be adoptees born in Arizona on or before June 20, 1968, or after September 28, 2021. The Lucky are lucky: they may apply for and obtain copies of their own original birth certificates. The Unlucky are, you guessed it, out of luck, and are shoved into a donut hole where they have no rights to obtain their own original birth certificates except through court orders. Still don’t understand? Find yourself in one of these two groups:
The Lucky (Qualified Adoptees)
Born on or before June 20, 1968, or on or after September 28, 2021.
The Unlucky (Disqualified Adoptees)
Born on or after June 21 1968, but prior to September 28, 2021.
I was born on June 21, 1968. Can I request and obtain my own original birth certificate?
No. You are Unlucky and do not qualify to request and obtain your own original birth certificate. You are within the five-decade donut hole years of roughly 1968 through 2021.
Think about it. If you are a twin and your twin sister was born just before midnight on June 20, 1968, she can request and obtain her own original birth certificate. If as a twin you were born five minutes later on June 21, 1968, you have no rights under this new law and must resort to a court petition to obtain your own birth record.
How old do I have to be to request my own original birth certificate?
For the Lucky ones, you can apply for a copy of your own original birth certificate if you are at least 18 years of age.
I am a descendant of an adoptee who benefits under this law. Can I request my father or mother’s original birth record?
No. The law only applies to adopted people born in the qualifying years. It does not extend to descendants or spouses or to anyone else, even if the adopted person is deceased.
How many adoptees benefit from this new law?
Good question. The vast majority of Arizona-born adopted people will not benefit from this law, as most adoptions in Arizona occurred in the years that are excluded by the donut hole provision (1968-2021). Based on statistical data related to adoptions and the number of births in Arizona between 1915 and 1968, it is likely that fewer than 20,000 adopted people may benefit from this law—though many of these adoptees are no longer alive. Ultimately, the law benefits a very small number of adopted people born in Arizona.
Who is responsible for this new law?
Obviously, the Arizona legislature and Governor Doug Ducey are responsible for enacting this law. But it was also supported directly by a group called Heritage Arizona, which was not led by Arizona adoptees. The Adoptee Rights Coalition, a now disgraced national organization, also applauded the passage of this new discriminatory law and thanked those that made it possible.
Most adoptees and adoptee rights organizations, including myself and Adoptee Rights Law Center, strongly opposed the new law and issued a statement in opposition, endorsed by hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations. In addition, the measure did not have the support of most Democrats in the Arizona Senate, as the bill barely passed on a 17-13 partisan vote.
How do I apply?
Updated January 4, 2022: The Arizona Department of Health Services, which oversees the state’s vital records division, has created a new page with information and links to download the forms to use to apply for the OBC, assuming you are in the Lucky category and do not fall into the Unlucky discriminatory donut hole. That information is here.
For those who are lucky and can apply for the OBC, how much will it cost?
The form to order the OBC indicates that a copy of the OBC will cost $5.00, which is the same cost for obtaining noncertified copies of vital records. The new law limits the fee to what is currently charged for anyone who requests a vital record in Arizona.
Applications are not taken online through an online vital records provider, such as VitalChek.
Will I receive any other documents other than the original birth certificate, assuming I can get that?
Possibly. The law allows a birthparent to file 1) a contact preference form; and 2) a medical history form. Completed forms, if any, would be sealed with the original birth record and provided to qualified adoptees along with a copy of the OBC.
What does the contact preference form say and do?
A birthparent contact preference form under Arizona’s new law is advisory only. A birthparent who completes the form can indicate if he or she wants to be contacted, either directly or through an intermediary, or not to be contacted at all. The contact preference form would also indicate if a separate medical history form has been filed and is directed to include additional information, including the hospital of birth and the name and location of any attorney who handled the adoption.
A filed contact preference form does not affect the ability of qualified adoptees to request their own original birth certificates. In addition, the new law requires the completion and filing of a contact preference form for birthparents who relinquish a child for adoption after September 9, 2021. A contact preference form is optional for birthparents who relinquished children for adoption prior to June 20, 1968.
Is the copy of the original birth certificate a certified record?
No. The copy that is provided will be a noncertified copy, and the law requires that it “shall clearly indicate that it is not a certified copy and that it may not be used for legal purposes.” This typically means it will be printed on plain paper (not on colored security paper) and it will not be embossed or stamped as containing the true facts recorded in the issuing office.
Does the new law provide a right to any other records?
No. While the new law (as well as prior law) has a provision that allows some adoptees to request certain adoption records, any right to receive those records depends on birthparent consent. The new law does two things in this regard: 1) it lowers the age of a person to request “adoption records” from 21 to 18; and 2) makes it explicit that a birthparent may “grant or withhold” consent for the adopted person to obtain adoption records at age 18, if the person is ultimately adopted (this part of the new law applies to termination of parental rights proceedings). The form for a birthparent to use to consent to release adoption records is required to be completed as part of any termination of parental rights proceedings.
The new law—as well as current law—does not define what is meant specifically by “adoption records.”
How long will it take to obtain a copy of my original birth certificate?
This is not known at this time but the Arizona Department of Health Services indicates that all orders are processed on a first-in, first-out basis.
Can I read the enacted bill?
Are there published rules to implement the new law?
No. The Arizona Administrative Code has not been modified to add new rules related to this law.
*Not a Question. Just a Note
The specific dates that divide adoptees into the “lucky” and “unlucky” groups is unclear at the moment. I interpret the law so that adoptees born ON OR BEFORE June 20, 1968, are eligible to apply, while the ADHS has interpreted it to mean only those born prior to June 20, 1968 (and not on June 20, 1968). The new law states that:
“The state registrar may not provide to an individual a copy of the individual’s original birth certificate that has been sealed due to an adoption, if the individual was born from and after June 20, 1968 . . . .”
But the Arizona Department of Health Services interprets it law differently, stating that:
“adoptees born in the state of Arizona who are at least 18 years of age and were born prior to June 20, 1968 or after September 28, 2021 can request a copy of their original birth certificate.”
Part of the problem is that ADHS has confusingly restated the law to make it seem positive. The law doesn’t specifically empower the people who can apply for an OBC—rather, the law empowers the state registrar to refuse to provide a copy of the original birth certificate to those born “from and after June 20, 1968.” I interpret it to mean that a person born on June 20, 1968, may apply for the OBC and the registrar is obligated to provide that OBC. After all, “from and after” is just lawyer’s fancy way of saying “after.” We’ll see how this goes.
Don’t you have a flowchart of the new law?