I hadn’t thought about the title of this post until I just wrote it, and I expect if you are a Buffalo Bills fan and are looking for essential answers to the Bills’ troubles or draft picks then maybe you should head over to the NFL. But stick around if you are a New Yorker or a Buffalo adoptee or anyone else interested in equal rights for adopted persons. Here are some quick answers to questions folks may have about the Weprin/Montgomery Bill, the clean adoptee right bill that is now making its way through the New York legislature.
What are the bill numbers of the Weprin/Montgomery Bill?
The assembly bill is A5494. The senate bill is S3419. If any amendments are made to the bills New York follows a practice of appending letters to the bills, starting with A. So, if amended, A5494 will first become A5494A. It is not amended at this time and it is a clean bill.
Who are the prime sponsors of these bills?
David Weprin is the prime sponsor of the Assembly bill, A5494. Senator Velmanette Montgomery is the prime sponsor of the New York Senate bill, S3419. Together the bill is known informally as the Weprin/Montgomery Bill.
How many co-sponsors are there?
As of February 25, 2019, there are 80 sponsors/co-sponsors of A5494, which is more than half of the New York Assembly. In the Senate, S3419 has six current co-sponsors, in addition to Senator Montgomery as prime sponsor.
What do these bills do?
The bills are identical and are known as “same as” bills. In a nutshell the bills require the release to the adult adoptee, upon request and payment of the regular fee for a vital record, of an unaltered and unredacted long form vault copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate.
How old does an adoptee need to be to request the copy of the OBC?
At least 18 years of age.
Is the OBC a certified copy?
Yes, the long-form vault copy the department of health provides is certified. It will, like all other released OBCs in the United States, include a notation that it cannot be used for identification purposes. This prevents the document from being used to establish two identities. As a side note, certification of a document only relates to the vital records department attesting that the copy is a true and correct copy of the original document on file.
I was born in Florida but adopted in New York. Does this bill do anything for me?
Yes. Under a separate provision in the bill, those born in a state other than New York but adopted in New York may request and obtain, without restriction, identifying information that would normally appear on the adopted person’s original birth certificate.
I think my original birth certificate is held by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Does the Weprin/Montgomery Bill address this?
Yes. The bill specifically addresses and requires the New York City Department of Health to release an OBC to the adult adoptee upon request. This is an important provision and was something advocates specifically worked to assure.
Can descendants of adoptees obtain a copy of their ancestors’ OBC?
Yes, under the Weprin/Montgomery Bill the people who can obtain a certified copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate are: 1) the adopted person, if eighteen years of age or more; 2) the adopted person’s direct line descendants if the adoptee is deceased; or 3) the lawful representative of the adopted person.
Are the courts involved at all in the request for an original birth certificate?
No, the Weprin/Montgomery Bill separates the vital records process from the courts, as it should. All requests are to be made to the state or local registrar of vital records, depending on where the OBC is filed.
What can I do to help?
First, sign up for updates from the New York Adoptee Right Coalition here, if you haven’t done so already. You can also go here and share a message of support online, simply by clicking a few buttons. A current call to action is here. And follow the New York Adoptee Right Coalition on Facebook and Twitter, where the most up-to-date news will be posted. Adoptee Rights Law Center is a core partner in NYARC, along with the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York and Bastard Nation (and Reclaim the Records is a strategic partner in the coalition).
Are there other competing bills in New York?
Yes, there is a bill sponsored by Assembly Member Benedetto, A2691, that two advocates have worked to file. It is a dirty bill that I do not support, and it is considered dead at this point.
What’s wrong with Assembly Member Benedetto’s bill?
The are a number of problems with the bill, both in its language and in how it would run into issues for implementation. These include continued court involvement, printing adoption information and adoptive parent names on the original birth certificate, and shifting away from equality and focusing on the specific rights of adoptive parents to obtain the OBC. The New York Adoptee Rights Coalition has a specific breakdown of the problems with the Benedetto Bill here.
What’s wrong with adoptive parents being printed on the original birth certificate with the Benedetto bill?
The basic problem is that most adoptees do not want the original birth certificate altered by putting adoption information on it. An OBC is independent of adoption and reflects the facts of birth as recorded at the time of birth. Informal polls have shown that the vast majority of adoptees do not want adoption information on an OBC. Yet the Benedetto bill mandates the alteration of the OBC by printing adoption information on it. This is highly problematic and will also increase the cost and complications to vital records’ departments that have to implement such an unnecessary provision.
Meghan O’Malley says
For the most part, I am in support of the Weprin/Montgomery Bill, however I do not agree with the term “birth” parent on the bill. The term “birth mother” comes from the Positive Adoption Language (PAL) framework developed in 1979. Previously, biological mothers had been referred to as “natural mothers” which was changed at the requests of adoption industries and adoptive parents. Many adoptees and first parents find the term “birth” mother or parent to be offensive. As an adoptee and woman, I find the term “birth” mother and parent to be a degrading and negative term for any woman to be labeled.
Gregory D. Luce says
Hi, Meghan. I typically drop descriptive adjectives like “birth” or “adoptive” or “natural” and only include them when context and clarity may require it. Though I use the preferred term for those who request a specific term, I typically use “birthparent” as a general reference—without a space—as that is the language/term used by Concerned United Birthparents.
Rachida Djebel says
Meghan, this is my response as an adoptee for at least 7 decades, a female, a mother, now grandmother, and an adoptee and child rights activist:
Unless you are voyeur or fan of fake algorithms, you cannot possibly know how other adoptees feel about those add-on descriptives to ‘mother’, or how many. As there are only about 2% of us who are adoptees in the world, it isn’t as if we are easily located, nor are those who conceived and gave us birth and life easily visible. We don’t wear neon signs on our heads that say ‘Adoptee’ or ‘mother of an adoptee ‘on our foreheads. The add-ons are quite new -no matter their source- and an affront to the child who was separated from his/he mother and other family. For me all are odious because they imply negativity towards the woman who gave birth to me and therefore gave me life. I have but one mother and one father. The fact that they colluded to rid themselves of me does not negate the fact of their paternity and maternity to me. The truth is that without them, I would not be writing this. As for ‘industries’, not everyone was adopted through a private agency-and not all private agencies are charlatans, just as not everyone was relinquished at or shortly before or after their birth. Some of us were wards of the state/counties and placed under the state’s so-called protection. The only money that crossed palms in my own situation were the attorney and court fees paid by the adopters. For the treatments, examinations, and other medical services provided the state paid those expenses via the taxpayers. I find it curious that you are not offended -and that you dare to suggest that others are not-by the term first parent(s) but object to the other terms you mention. A mother who gives birth is by definition a birthmother and also the first, last and only mother a child will ever have, and the majority of births are indeed natural—meaning not IVF or in other ways unnatural (think sperm and egg donations). Only you can explain how they are ‘degrading’ to you.
For personal reasons I am not in favor of a state granting descendants access to my OBC upon my death as it is arbitrary and applied without my consent.
Melody Ann Macgregor says
This is insanity. . .I’m 73 now and have been trying to get my OBC for over 40 years. Adopted by stepfather only…at age 7. Went thru tons of money acquiring all documentation of my father, including HIS birth and death certs, all of his family death certs, going back to 1860 and beyond. . .proving his bigamy at the time he married my mother, and his first wife and child were stranded in Manila during the Japanese invasion. . .a military family. . . I know more about him and his history than any of his 3 wives. . .now, in 2007 I made a legal name change back to my birth name to make acquiring documents easier. . so everything is changed now, and I have found my half-sister (unfortunately now deceased) and met my father’s first wife…all parties involved in anything are long dead…and I am still not allowed to have it. With REAL-ID coming in 2020, and my passport being expired (birth name on it, with legal name change document presentation), a birth certificate is required for a REAL ID. . .so I am confused that this proposed law states that the birth certificate CANNOT BE USED FOR IDENTIFICATION? Where does that leave me?