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.