Status and description of state bills during 2020 legislative sessions are below. Status is current for all states as of October 1, 2020, though most legislatures are no longer in session or have suspended sessions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click on a state for more details, which appear below the map.
Legislation in the U.S. Congress related to intercountry adoptees is covered here. I also track bills from the District of Columbia that affect adoptees and vital records.
Active or Enacted Bills
Bills that are currently active or have been enacted in the 2020 session. Federal legislation, typically related to issues of intercountry adoption, are listed here.
HB89/SB302: ENACTED. Bill with textual changes that do not alter a discriminatory and consent-based law.. These bills change text in the law but do not change how requests for original birth certificates are processed for adult adoptees in the state. Though the bills do not effectively change how the law operates, it will negatively impact future efforts to enact equal rights legislation in the state because it reinforces the need for consent from any birthparent named on the original birth certificate before an OBC will be released to the adult adopted person. As introduced, the bills were identical to the two 2019 bills, which are discussed on the 2019 legislative map and most recently here. Senate and House committees reported the bills out favorably, with an amendment that requires adoptive parent consent if the adoptee is less than 18 years of age at the time of any request. HB89 passed the House 119-0 and the Senate 37-2. Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on June 18, 2020, and it took effect on July 1.
H.1892/S.1267: Bill that removes date-based restrictions that have created a “donut hole” in the state for adoptees born between 1974 and 2008. This is the same short and sweet bill (14 words long) from prior sessions that closes a date-based loophole in current Massachusetts law, eliminating the discriminatory provision that denies an unrestricted right to the OBC for adoptees who were born between 1974 and 2008. H.1892 passed the House on July 27, 2020, and all efforts now shift to the Senate, where S.1267 is in the Rules Committee. OBC for Massachusetts is the primary group advocating on behalf of the bills. The session is still considered active, though it has moved into “informal session” and the bill is unlikely to advance.
S2692: Reduces age required to request an OBC from 25 to 18, plus makes the OBC available at birth for people born on or after July 1, 2020. Rhode Island is already an unrestricted rights state, though current law requires the adoptee to be 25 years of age or older to request the OBC. This bill does three primary things: 1) reduces the age to request the OBC from 25 to 18; 2) makes the OBC available at birth to those born on or after July 1, 2020; and 3) adds direct line descendants of the adoptee as persons who may request and obtain the OBC if the adoptee is deceased. It has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Rhode Island legislature reconvened in July for a “pandemic session” that will likely only include essential business and legislation.
SJR8032. ENACTED. This is a joint legislative resolution calling on the U.S. Congress and the U.S. President to enact the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019. ACA19 would remove a date-based loophole in current immigration law that denies automatic U.S. citizenship to intercountry adoptees born prior to February 27, 1983. The resolution expresses the Tennessee legislature’s support of the ACA. It passed unanimously in the Tennessee House and Senate. Governor Bill Lee signed the resolution on June 12, 2020.
A separate bill to remove a contact veto from current law died in the legislature when it adjourned on June 18, 2020.
HB345: ENACTED. Consent-based redaction bill. HB345 requires consent of a birthparent for release of a “adoption documents,” defined by current Utah law to include the original birth certificate. If two parents are listed in an adoption document and one does not consent, the non-consenting parent’s name may be redacted. While the law also removes a prior date-based restriction, it now means that all adoptees must secure parental permission to obtain their own birth records. It passed both chambers unanimously, with no debate or questions in the Senate. Governor Gary Herbert signed the bill on March 31, 2020. It is effective November 21, 2021.
Bills that ain’t going anywhere this year. Dead.
HB2600: Unrestricted rights bill with a genuine contact preference form. Arizona advocates returned in 2020 with an unrestricted OBC rights bill that is nearly identical to last session’s bill—with one huge difference: it was introduced with more than 30 sponsors, including 26 in the House and five in the Senate. The bill requires, upon request of an adopted person who is at least 18 years of age, the release of the adopted person’s own original birth certificate. A birthparent may file an optional contact preference form but it does not alter the release of the OBC to the adult adoptee. Descendants of the adoptee are not covered by the bill. It passed the House 53-7 on February 27, 2020, and has now been transmitted to the Senate, where it has been referred to the Judiciary Committee. An amendment on the floor of the House added an appropriation and also made changes that require birthparents to acknowledge, prior to an adoption, the right of an adoptee to receive the OBC at age 18. Advocates with Heritage Arizona support the bill. Though the Arizona House reconvened and is conducting limited business, the Senate voted to end the session in May. HB2600 is considered dead for the session.
SB113: Unrestricted rights bill that eliminates a date-based restriction in current law. Access Connecticut is back again with a bill that has struggled in the past, not because of advocacy but because of opposition by a tiny number of legislators in the Senate and House. Senate Bill 113 is nearly identical to last year’s bill and removes a date-based restriction in current law that requires adoptees to obtain a court order to obtain the OBC if the adoption occurred prior to October 1, 1983. It has been reported favorably from the Joint Committee on Planning and Development. The Connecticut legislature adjourned sine die on May 6 without considering the bill further.
SF621: Birthparent redaction bill. SF621 was an unrestricted rights bill when it hit the Senate floor last year—until the Iowa Adoptee & Family Coalition agreed to the addition of redaction provisions, which it supports. SF621, which has now carried over to the 2020 session, grants birthparents the unchallenged power to redact information from an adopted person’s original birth certificate—for now, for future adoptions, and forever, even after the parent dies. SF621 was reported out of the Ways and Means Committee was on the House Debate Eligible Calendar when the legislature adjourned on June 13 after a pandemic-interrupted and shortened session. More background on the Iowa effort is here.
SB743/HB1039: Unrestricted rights bill with genuine contact preference form and elimination of prior disclosure vetoes. Maryland instituted a system in 2000 that provided for release of the OBC, but only to adoptees 21 years of age or older who were adopted on or after January 1, 2000. Current law also provides for birth parent and adoptee disclosure vetoes. These bills eliminate this discriminatory framework and provides for the unrestricted right to request and obtain the OBC. The bills allow for genuine contact preference forms for both birthparents and adoptees, allows a birthparent to request and obtain the OBC in addition to the adult adoptee at age 18, and sunsets the few prior disclosure vetoes on file, beginning October 1, 2020, converting them into contact preferences indicating that no contact is preferred. HB1039 passed the House, 131-7 on March 11, and it will likely be referred to the Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate, where SB0743 is awaiting vote. Maryland Adoptee Rights has been the leader on this issue in Maryland, and it is also part of the Capitol Coalition for Adoptee Rights, a regional coalition formed to support legislation in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The 2020 Maryland legislature adjourned early as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with no further action taken on the bills.
SF2606/HF2906: Clean bills that dismantle Minnesota’s forty-plus-year history of compromise. SF2606/HF2906 are the first clean bills ever filed in Minnesota and they constitute a necessary step toward dismantling a complex system that has existed in Minnesota since 1977—which I’ve frequently written about, including here and here. A detailed memo explaining each of the sections in the Senate bill is here. The bills did not make the March 13 deadline for committee hearing. The 2020 session adjourns May 18, 2020, though the legislature is now meeting only on an “on-call” basis during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bills are considered dead for this session.
Mississippi had two different bills that too different routes to provide the OBC or identifying information to an adult adoptee. Both died after failing to make it out of committee by March 3.
SB2382: Provides the OBC upon request to an adoptee 18 years after the adoption, overriding any prior disclosure vetoes. Republican Senator Chuck Younger has introduced a bill that will release the OBC upon request by the adoptee eighteen years after the adoption. This could mean that some older adoptees may not get their OBC upon request until their twenties and, technically, into their thirties. The bill specifically overrides any prior birthparent disclosure vetoes over identifying information, stating that the vetoes do not affect “an adoptee who is entitled to a copy of the adoptee’s original and cancelled birth certificate under Section 93-17-21(3).” The bill has been referred to the Judiciary A Committee.
HB635: Identifying information bill that attempts to sunset prior birthparent disclosure vetoes. Mississippi currently uses a “centralized adoption records file” to control release of identifying information, which includes the adoptee’s original birth certificate. The current system allows birthparents to file affidavits that allow or deny release of such identifying information. HB635 adds a new provision indicating that an adoptee at age 21 may obtain “unrestricted” identifying information and that a birthparent affidavit “shall not be effective against an adoptee who is twenty-one (21) years of age or older.” It’s not fully clear if the bill applies retroactively or prospectively to birthparent affidavits. In addition, requests must be made to a licensed adoption agency as part of post-adoption services, with a fee of no more than $100.00 per birthparent (a request for identifying information relates to each birthparent). The bill died in the Judiciary A Committee.
HB2212/SB2143: Removes contact veto provisions in current law. Tennessee is not an unrestricted rights state. It has three provisions that are problematic: 1) redaction of records in certain limited cases; 2) a $150 fee to request records; and 3) a highly problematic and likely unconstitutional “contact veto.” These bills remove the contact veto provision. While the bills are hard to decipher because of way it is drafted, I have compiled the proposed changes in this document. Both bills were set to be heard in each chambers’ Judiciary Committee in March. The COVID-19 pandemic led to deferral of all legislative action. The House bill, however, was briefly on the agenda for the May 26 Judiciary Committee meeting, but was removed at the meeting. The Tennessee legislature adjourned on June 18, 2020.
H672. Discriminatory odd duck bill that retains a current registry-based system but allows release of adoption records fifty years after the death of the adoptee or birthparent . This bill was on nobody’s radar even though it was filed and referred to committee in mid-January. The bill does nothing to undo Vermont’s current date-based and discriminatory system that allows release of adoption records, subject to the use of a registry and further subject to birthparent vetoes. The bill appears to carve out an exception for release of adoption records if the adoptee or birthparent has been deceased for more than fifty years. It died after failing to meet a March 13 deadline to move out of committee. Thanks to Bekka Henson for bringing this to the attention of advocates. The Vermont legislature adjourns on May 8, 2020.
SB25. Discriminatory bill with birthparent redaction requests. SB25 is a discriminatory OBC bill that will allow birthparents to file name redaction requests. If filed, the request would operate to redact a birthparent’s name on the adoptee’s original birth certificate. The bill died without receiving a hearing in committee, as it did in the 2019 session.
AB579/SB521. Releases a copy of a report of adoption but does not address nor release the adult adoptee’s original birth certificate. The report of adoption is a court form reporting an adoption to the Wisconsin department of vital records so that, if requested, a new amended birth certificate can be issued. The report contains the names of the birth and adoptive parents involved in the adoption. This is solely an “identifying information” only bill and does not relate to the unrestricted right of an adoptee to obtain a copy of his or her own original birth certificate. After being heard in committee, proposed amendments would have created birthparent disclosure vetoes over the release of the report. Five national and state-level organizations requested that the bills be set aside and no further action be taken. The same groups also submitted a letter opposing the discriminatory amendments. Senate Joint Resolution 1 effectively killed most pending legislation in the 2020 Wisconsin legislative session.