As we move into a critical period in many state legislatures—and as the U.S. Congress moves forward in a new session—here’s where we stand and what all of us can do today.
Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021
Where We Stand: The Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021 has recently been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is still very early in the process, and 21 bipartisan co-sponsors have already been added to the bill. The amount of initial support for the ACA is not surprising: in the last Congressional session a total of 96 co-sponsors signed on to the House bill, though ultimately the ACA did not get a hearing in either the Senate or House. A Senate companion bill, authored by Sen. Mazie Hirono, is expected to be filed shortly.
What You Can Do: Learn more and write to your Congressional representatives. I will be providing an overview of current law and its impact on intercountry adoptees in an upcoming virtual event. The event will also include Kris Larsen and Anissa Druesedow, intercountry adoptees and activists who are leaders in the fight for passage of the ACA. If you want to understand how current law is broken and what we can do do fix it, I recommend this event.
I already track and analyze federal and state adoptee rights legislation (see map below). Below, however, I also discuss current efforts in various states, including what you can do today to help protect or secure adoptee rights for all of us.
Rhode Island: S250
Where We Stand. This bill does three things: 1) lowers the age of an adoptee to obtain the original birth record, from 25 to 18; 2) adds the right of the adoptee’s descendants to request and obtain the OBC; and 3) for people born after June 2021, making the OBC available from the time of birth, no matter an adoption. The bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee last month and held for further study, a procedure that committees in Rhode Island use to preserve leadership control over moving bills out of committee. The bill does not have any specific known opposition.
What You Can Do. Write to Senate legislative leadership, who essentially controls the movement of S250. This includes Senate President Dominick Ruggerio ([email protected]), Leader Michael J. McCaffrey ([email protected]) and Senate Whip Maryellen Goodwin, who is one of the bill’s sponsors ([email protected]). Your message can be short and simple:
I would appreciate your support of S250, which makes needed amendments to Rhode Island law related to an adopted person’s own birth record. This is an important bill to me and to thousands of adoptees and their families. I request your leadership in moving the bill forward for Senate consideration. Please let me know your position on this bill and issue.
You can copy and paste these emails:
Where We Stand. House File 723 is a redaction bill which uses a “corrupt” contact preference form to allow birthparents to redact information from the adoptee’s birth record. Its companion bill is SF559, which seems to be progressing through the Senate without a hitch. The House bill, however, appears stalled in the Ways and Means Committee and has not been given a hearing. This creates a possible chance to kill this discriminatory bill.
What You Can Do. Write to Representative Lee Hein, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Be short and sweet and say that, as an adoptee (or birthparent or adoptive parent) that you oppose the bill. Specifically state that the bill does not have broad support of adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents. Email him at [email protected] or call his office at (515) 281-3221. A message you can use or copy and paste is:
Dear Chairman Hein:
I am an adopted person. I write in opposition to HF723. It does not have the support of most adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents. I ask that you refuse to give HF723 a hearing in your committee.
Where We Stand. HB2070 is a discriminatory bill that would create a new “donut-hole” in the state, eliminating adoptees born between 1968 and 2022 from the right to request and obtain their own original birth records. This graphic pretty much sums up the bill:
What You Can Do. The American Adoption Congress has an action alert on Facebook that I encourage you to follow. It provides suggested language and the emails of both House and Senate legislators (my recommendation would be to send only to state senators, as the bill already passed the House and is currently moving toward floor consideration in the Senate). Thanks to the AAC for putting out the alert.
Where We Stand. UPDATED. The Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate passed SB0331 out of committee with a DO PASS recommendation. It is set to hit the Senate floor for consideration as early as March 24. Please see “What You Can Do” immediately below.
What You Can Do. Sign up with the Capitol Coalition for Adoptee Rights (CCAR) to get more involved in Maryland, as well as involved in Virginia and the District of Columbia. Adoptee Rights Law Center is a core partner in CCAR. You can also follow efforts with Maryland Adoptee Rights on Facebook. Maryland Adoptee Rights is also a core member of the regional coalition.
Active Pending Bills (No Urgent Action Needed)
Where We Stand. These bills are short and concise and will secure equality for all adult adopted people. They deserve broad and active support from all adopted people and their allies. HB1386 was recently heard in the Public Health Commitee, with very strong support from testifiers, including House sponsor Rep. Cody Harris. A recent Texas Monthly article also calls attention to broad support for adoptee equal rights, including expressed support from Gladney Adoption Center President Mark Melson (Gladney’s counsel has also expressed public support for OBC bills generally, though she has not yet expressed specific support for HB1386/SB1877). A vote is likely on the bill in committee on March 24.
What You Can Do. The best thing you can do is sign up for email alerts and other information from Texas Adoptee Rights Coalition, of which Adoptee Rights Law Center is a core partner. Or reach out to Shawna Hodgson, the spokesperson for TXARC. And in unprecedented cooperation and commitment to equal rights, TXARC entered into a collaborative agreement with Support Texas Adoptee Rights to work jointly for passage of a genuine equal rights bill in the state.
Where We Stand. I’ve written a lot about Florida and prior legislative efforts in the state, most recently here (and a more comprehensive report about the state here). My thoughts have not changed, and they can essentially be boiled down to this: the current political makeup of the Florida legislature (and the governor’s office for that matter) guarantees a disastrous result for adoptees if anyone attempts to push an equal rights bill through legislative committees. It will end badly. The current effort today— with two bills, HB1333 and SB1700—will end that way. You don’t have to trust me, but all I ask is you be careful about what you are told, demand the underlying commitment of people who support and promote the bills, and choose equal rights for all adopted people over short-sighted expediency “just to do something.”
What You Can Do. My only recommendation is to get your information from trusted people who are committed to equal rights for all adoptees. One such source is Florida Adoption Information Reform (FAIR), a private Facebook group. You can also always check back with me here, contact me for thoughts, or follow Adoptees United for details of any pending bills. And Bastard Nation will always tell it like it is. If the bill does get amended to add discriminatory provisions, expect a request from me to contact legislators to ask that they oppose the discriminatory bill.
Where We Stand. House Bill 59, a discriminatory prospective-only bill, has been sent to the Senate’s 14th Order calendar, where committees send bills for amendment. The amendments are being requested by the Senate Judiciary committee and relate to potential addition of more discriminatory provisions, likely centered around medical information or parental permission for release of a birth record. The bill is languishing on the current calendar and—given a sudden two-week recess due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the legislature—it’s unclear if any attention will be given to the bill once legislators come back into session, which was originally slated to end on April 2.
What You Can Do. Be cognizant of this bill’s status as discriminatory and likely getting worse—if further attention is given to it. I’ve spoken with the sponsors and don’t question their commitment to pass the current unamended bill, but that commitment is to keep the bill prospective only and “come back” the following session with a retroactive bill. Now that the bill is generally out of their control and up for further requested amendments, the best route is to let it die to prevent those further discriminatory amendments to be added. If you are inclined to write the sponsors—Rep. Julianne Young and Rep. John McCrostie—do so and request that they allow H59 to die and to work toward equal rights for all adoptees in another legislative session.
Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont
Where We Stand. Four New England states are active this session, and that includes Rhode Island (see above) plus bills in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. The Connecticut and Massachusetts bills relate to removal of date-based restrictions, while the Vermont bill proposes a “study” of the issue.
What You Can Do. Follow Access Connecticut for news and efforts in that state, as well as Access Massachusetts for legislative updates in Massachusetts. And consider joining a newly formed group New England Adoptee Rights, which is working to support efforts in all of the New England states. NEAR is a project with support from Adoptees United and is currently led by an adoptee in Vermont.
An equal rights bill in Minnesota received a hearing but did not move out of committee before deadline. It is now dead. Minnesota has a two-year framework for its sessions, with the first year largely dedicated to budgetary issues, while the second year is better suited to consider policy issues. The 2022 session is considered the policy session and the two current equal rights bills will carryover to that session. You can sign up with me to pitch in for Minnesota, where I am based and where I testified on four different occasions this past session.
Two bills in Mississippi have also died. More details about them are here.